Cape-Fear-endemic Ramshorn Snail proposed for Endangered Species Act protection

Us Fish And Wildlife Services
(Photo: US Fish and Wildlife Service)

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The US Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed protection of the Ramshorn Snail as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

The proposal comes following a petition and lawsuit from the Center for Biological Diversity.

The agency 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 survives only in captive-reared populations.

“Endangered species protections for the Ramshorn is long overdue,” staff scientist Will Harlan said. “These special snails are literally one of the most endangered animals on the planet, and it’s just sad they’ve had to wait nearly 40 years for protection because of long-standing problems at the Fish and Wildlife Service.”

First identified as needing protection in 1984, the Ramshorn is an herbivorous air-breathing snail with a coiled shell in the shape of a ram’s horn. Endemic to the Cape Fear River watershed of coastal North Carolina, the Ramshorn depends on shallow, slow-moving freshwater with an abundance of vegetation.

Habitat loss due to the killing of beavers — whose dams create suitable habitat — development and climate-driven hurricanes have wiped out the magnificent Ramshorn in the wild. Surveys of more than 100 potential sites over the past several decades have not documented any magnificent Ramshorn snails.

Saltwater intrusion driven by past and threatened dredging of the Port of Wilmington and climate change-driven sea-level rise threatens to upend the Ramshorn’s habitat and the Cape Fear bioregion as a whole, requiring dramatic action. The Service’s proposal would protect two ponds and 739 acres as critical habitat for the snail.

“This protection is great news not just for the magnificent Ramshorn but also for the entire Cape Fear River and the many fish, turtles, mammals and birds that share this snail’s habitat,” Andy Wood said.. “The magnificent Ramshorn epitomizes the term ‘biodiversity.’ It is the flagship species of a unique bioregion that is special and worthy of protection.”

The Center petitioned the Service to protect the magnificent Ramshorn in 2010 and sued the agency in 2021.

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