During our snail survey earlier this month, we found over 30 Oregon Forestsnails and Pacific Sidebands on our Three Creeks property in Abbotsford! This warm, wet weather has coaxed our native snails out of hiding!
FVC staff survey this property every year in the Spring and Fall in order to learn more about our native land snail populations. We’re particularly interested in learning more about the Oregon Forestsnail, a federally listed species at risk. In fact, the Fraser Valley is one of the only locations in all of Canada with known populations of the endangered Oregon Forestsnail (OFS). The Fraser Valley Conservancy has been monitoring these OFS populations since 2014, using methodology they developed with species experts.
The bigleaf maple forest on the FVC’s Three Creeks property (as you can see in the image below), with its moist understory and large patches of stinging nettle, is a suitable habitat for these snails. So, in early May, protected by long pants and long sleeves, Sofi and I got down on our hands and knees to search understory plants and leaflitter for snails of all kinds! .
This was my first time searching for snails on a FVC property, but Sofi is a seasoned expert. She showed me how to get down low to look for snails at different angles through the underbrush, and how to carefully paw through the leaf litter so as not to disturb the environment during our search.
At each of the 19 randomized plots set up throughout the property, we spent 10 minutes looking for snails. First we would measure out the diameter of the circular plot, and then we would each search one side. When we were both ready, Sofi would start the 10 minute timer, and the search was on! The timer made it feel like a competition, which definitely made it more fun, but it was really there to ensure that we’re consistent in our data collection. To keep our findings accurate, we need to make sure that every plot gets treated the same every time we go back to survey the site.
When travelling between each plot, we made sure to scan the surrounding area to see if we could find any snails of interest. Specifically, we were on the lookout for the Oregon Forestsnail and the Pacific Sideband.
The survey plots aren’t always in a snail hot spot. In fact, we discovered our largest snail grouping of the day almost entirely by accident! During an unscheduled bio-break, I happened to find 20 Oregon Forestsnails just outside of our plot area all within a 7m radius of each other! This got both of us very excited. We marked the spot on our GPS unit so that we can come back later and search it again.
Throughout the day, we made note of the type and number of snails we found at each plot, both alive and dead, and we measured and marked the shells of our two snail species of interest. We painted a number on each shell with a non-toxic nail varnish. (One might say that we hosted a pop-up sNAIL salon!)
We hope to recapture some of the snails we marked during our next survey so that we can learn more about the native snail population sizes on the Three Creeks property, and what kind of habitat types they prefer.
We’re hoping that as we learn more about the Oregon Forestsnail we can make better predictions about where we might find other populations of this endangered snail in the future, and how we can help protect their habitat.
Stay tuned for an analysis of our surveys to date!
You can be a snail detective, too!