- Chris Belcher
Apple Snails Invade San Antonio
Apple Snails are invading San Antonio and causing destruction of vital habitat in the San Antonio River. One organization, the San Antonio River Authority, is fighting back with science and the hard work of its volunteers.
The Apple Snail is just one of the invasive species Texas is dealing with. It was found by scientist in the Museum Reach section of the San Antonio River Walk in 2019. Since that time the San Antonio River Authority scientist and River Warrior volunteers have been working to eradicate this threat in this area of the river.
Chris Vaughn, San Antonio River Authority’s senior aquatic biologist, is one of the scientists working on the issue of the Apple Snail. He summed up the threat posed by the Apple Snail.
Vaughn said, “They (Apple Snails) are a pretty nasty invader to our rivers because they tear up the habitat utilized by fish and other native snails and other organisms.
According to him removing the snails restores balance to the ecosystem, helps save the plants and benefits native river species.
“By removing the Apple Snails, we are putting the ecosystem back in synch,” said Vaughn. “If we can take away the disruptor that is destroying these aquatic plants. We can keep those aquatic plants that are being utilized by the native fish and the native snails and other bugs and other organisms.”
Vaughn recommended against eating the Apple Snails, a method used to encourage reduction in other invasive species such as the Lionfish, for two reasons it’s illegal to possess them and they carry parasites.
“It’s a bad idea with the Apple Snail to eat the Apple Snail because first of all they’re illegal to possess. It’s also not recommended to eat the Apple Snail because they’re a known carrier for parasites such as the Rat Lung Worm and others,” said Vaughn.
Vaughn encouraged San Antonio residents to get involved by joining the River Warriors and had this to say.
“The River Warrior volunteers are truly our eyes and ears on the river every day. We have two hundred and forty miles of river to cover and we’re trying to really focus hard on this stretch of the river where we’re facing this problem so the more volunteers that we have the better. I highly encourage anybody who’s interested in helping out to please reach out,” he said.
The River Warrior
Luz Boentges is one of the River Warriors helping the San Antonio River Authority fight the Apple Snail invasion. She received training from SARA on properly handling and disposing the snails as well as equipment to help deal with them.
Boentges and her son go out in the King Williams area of the San Antonio River looking for the Apple Snails and egg cases. She was going to the river every week during the summer but now she’s on the river hunting for Apple Snails and its egg cases every two to three weeks. They typically remove three to five Apple Snails and the egg cases they find on each outing.
Boentges explained why she thinks it’s important to volunteer.
“It is very important to volunteer because if we let this invasive species keep growing it’ll keep damaging the river. They’ll keep eating the native aquatic plants, and they’ll be affecting the native species,” she said.
She also encourages others to volunteer and help stop this invasion.
Boentges said, “I truly encourage everyone to volunteer. It’s a great opportunity to become part of nature, to learn about the river, and just to bring your family, to bring your kids, and just helping keep our rivers clean and beautiful.”
Remember if you find an Apple Snail or egg case during your time on the river or the River Walk to report the sighting. It’s illegal to possess the snails or egg cases if you haven’t been trained to deal with them.
But you can help fight the Apple Snails’ invasion by volunteering to become a River Warrior at Volunteer | San Antonio River Authority (sariverauthority.org). Sign up, get the training, and become one of the proud River Warriors removing the invader from our river.