Free pool passes for volunteer snail pickers
They look pretty harmless and move pretty slow, but the damage from an island apple snail can devastate vegetation in and around pond and lakes.
Volunteers are needed for an apple snail removal day from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, June 11. Those who participate will receive a free pass to the St. Marys Aquatic Center or the St. Marys Recreation Authority Pool.
The non-native species has invaded a few local areas, including the pond behind the aquatic center on Herb Bauer Drive. The Public Service Authority, which maintains the park, and has recently begun to create a new walking path and shaded benches around the pond.
When director William Brunson discovered the snails could pose a problem, he reached out to Jessica Warren from the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Office in Camden County. The office assists local landowners with problems like this one.
Recently, the extension led an eradication program for the air potato, a damaging non-native plant species. Beetles were released to combat the air potato problem, but with apple snails, human intervention will be required. The snails and their eggs must be removed by hand.
The eggs cling to leaves and reeds in small clusters of pink spheres, but they can be easily scraped off without damaging the plants. Not only do the snails damage vegetation by eating it, they also displace native species that also rely on that food source.
The snails can grow to the size of softballs and there are several large snails present near the aquatic center pond.
“We want to prevent them from getting in our natural waterway … where they can do more damage,” Warren said.
Volunteers for the removal day do not have to register; they can just show up at 9 a.m. on Saturday.
Warren recommends wearing boots because the edges of the pond and adjacent wetlands are especially muddy from recent rain. Sunscreen, bug repellent and gloves are also recommended. People can bring kayaks or waders if they wish to delve deeper into the water, but that’s optional.
“Most of (the snails) are just around the edge of the pond,” she said.
For more information about island apple snails or about the snail removal day on Saturday, call the extension office at (912) 576-3219.