Response to Invasive Apple Snails at Hurlburt Field – What Do You Do When You Can’t Follow the Generally Accepted Control Guidance?
Jeff Van Vrancken, Fish Biologist, US Fish and Wildlife Service- Eglin Air Force Base/Hurlburt Field: Jeffrey_vanvrancken@fws.gov
Lorraine Ketzler, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, US Fish and Wildlife Service - Hurlburt Field: email@example.com
Apple snails (Pomacea sp.) were detected on Hurlburt Field in 2016, likely as released aquatic pets from a nearby apartment complex. Their introduction was noted, and semi-casually monitored until USFWS confirmed occupancy on Hurlburt Field of the endangered reticulated flatwoods salamanders (Ambystoma bishopi). Apple snails may pose a risk for the salamander, as they are known to rapidly consume emergent herbaceous vegetation, a limited resource that is required for egg-laying habitat by the salamanders. Although Hurlburt’s salamander breeding ponds are located at a distance from the apple snail-infested wetlands, the snails continue to spread across the installation through wetland drainages and ditches. It is likely that they will reach the salamander breeding ponds in the next few years. Hurlburt Natural Resources and USFWS have attempted multiple control measures: hand removal of egg masses in a 200-acre infested dome swamp, multiple trap designs to capture adult snails in ditches and drainages, free-hand adult captures, and a pilot laboratory study to assess the feasibility of molluscicide (Ferroxx AQ). These methods have proven labor-intensive and minimally successful. In the future, we plan to request proposals for a graduate student to lead this project, but we are also requesting input from the wider expert community at NMFWA for advice on control measures applicable for environments that cannot be simply de-vegetated or treated with copper (the accepted control measures proven successful in small-acreage ponds).