Friday, April 20, 2007

"Forbidden Swim Kills Endangered Banff Snail"

Read this article on and thought I'd share it:

An illicit swim in an ecologically sensitive hot spring at a national historic site in Banff has killed at least five endangered snails.

A vandal broke into the Cave and Basin historic site last week and swam in an outdoor hot spring that is home to Banff Springs snails, an endangered species under Canada's Species at Risk Act.

Losing even five snails is a big deal because the species are an important part of the Banff ecosystem, site supervisor Steve Malins said Thursday.

"We use it basically as an indicator species. If the snail is doing well in its environment, it's a fairly good indication that the rest of the thermal springs ecosystem is doing well."

Dipping a hand in a pool can kill snails

The snails, the largest of which is the size of a kernel of corn, are found only in pools at the historic site on Sulphur Mountain. In 2005, there were only 34,000 left, but the population fluctuates, according to the Banff Crag and Canyon.

Hot springs contain minerals, little oxygen, high concentrations of dissolved hydrogen sulphide gas, and even some radioactivity. Most Banff Springs snails live in the part of the springs where the water gurgles up from the ground.

According to Parks Canada, even dipping a hand in a pool on the site can unintentionally kill the snails or their eggs.

Malins said the swimmer damaged the floating microbial mats on which the snails feed and lay their eggs. Some of the algae was also smeared on the side of a nearby building.

The vandal swam undetected because a motion sensor temporarily failed, but it has since been fixed, he said.

The historic site commemorates the birthplace of Canada's national park system, which began at the hot springs in 1885. The pools on the site are closed to the public.

Ok my thoughts now:

#1 Haven't you always wanted to do that? Take a dip in the REAL hotsprings rather than "the Banff Hotsprings" which are really just hot plain old boring water heated by the real spring water. I mean I understand the Park staff wanting to prevent all the tourists coming to the park from trooping down to get the spring experience but maybe they could do a lottery for a few lucky people?

#2 The Banff snail, with 34 000 specimens alive today, according to the article, becomes endangered every spring because of the pH changes associated with the spring meltwater. It's a naturally occurring phenomenon. This "vandal" killed maybe five snails (according to the article)? I understand the need to preserve the existence of the snail to understand the water system but maybe are we maybe overreacting a bit?

Someone is going to come back and argue the "slippery slope" phenomenon--that if we left one in, we have to let them all. Perhaps that is the case. But right now I'm kind of cheering for this vandal who has now experienced something the rest of us are not allowed to.



...carla... said...

ok but seriously. a snail? is there NO other way to preserve a snail? how hard can it be? if you know what minerals and combos and whatever all else need to be in the water, can that not be recreated somewhere?
also. i agree, i cheer for this vandal who has had a one in a million experience.

Les said...

As cool as the dip might be, if it is truly the only home in the world for these snails, couldnt we just let them be? There are lots of other hot springs out there. Without endangered species. I say hands off. Pay the 5 dollars, and sit beside the german in a speedo. Endangered snails will thank you. If zee germans don't do it for you, then take a bath!