WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed Ramshorn snail protection as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.
The proposal follows a petition and lawsuit from the Center for Biological Diversity.
The agency has also designated two ponds in the Cape Fear River watershed as critical habitat for the snail.
According to the Wildlife Service, the Ramshorn snail is currently extinct in the wild and only survives in captive-bred populations.
“Endangered species protection for the Ramshorn is long overdue,” said scientist Will Harlan. “These special snails are literally one of the most endangered animals on the planet, and it’s just sad that they had to wait almost 40 years to be protected due to long-standing issues at the Fish and Wildlife Service.”
First identified as in need of protection in 1984, the Ramshorn is an air-breathing, herbivorous snail with a coiled shell shaped like a ram’s horn. Endemic to the Cape Fear River watershed on the North Carolina coast, the Ramshorn depends on shallow, slow-moving fresh water with an abundance of vegetation.
Habitat loss due to the killing of beavers – whose dams create suitable habitat – development and weather-related hurricanes have wiped out the magnificent Ramshorn in the wild. Surveys of over 100 potential sites over the past few decades have documented no magnificent Ramshorn snails.
Saltwater intrusion caused by past and threatened dredging of Wilmington Harbor and sea level rise due to climate change threatens to upset Ramshorn habitat and the Cape Fear bioregion as a whole, necessitating dramatic action. The Service’s proposal would protect two ponds and 739 acres as critical snail habitat.
“This protection is great news not only for the magnificent Ramshorn, but for the entire Cape Fear River and the many fish, turtles, mammals and birds that share this snail’s habitat,” said Andy Wood. “The magnificent Ramshorn embodies the term ‘biodiversity. It is the flagship species of a unique, special and worthy of protection bioregion.
The Center asked the Service to protect the magnificent Ramshorn in 2010 and sued the agency in 2021.