Over the past several years, the Seneca Park Zoo has partnered with SUNY School of Environmental Science & Forestry, Syracuse’s Rosamond Gifford Zoo, the Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to help assess the population status of the Chittenango Ovate Amber Snail. Found only along the spray zones of Chittenango Falls, these snails are New York State’s most endangered animal. Habitat degradation and competition from an invasive European snail have caused drastic declines in the population numbers over time.
Zoo staff make several trips over the summer to help officials with snail surveys. To estimate the population of snails found at the falls, each snail is counted and then tagged with a bee tag for future identification. Scientists can use the information collected to determine the population status from year to year.
In addition to the surveys, staff from all organizations are studying the environment to help manage the habitat these snails need to survive. The snails are herbivorous so managing the vegetation around their habitat becomes critical. Water testing is also ongoing to ensure that the river is free of harmful chemicals for the snails and other inhabitants.
Recent research and surveys have indicated that the population of Chittenango Ovate Amber Snails is stable. Captive propagation is currently being evaluated to try and establish a secondary population to help prevent against extinction if the conditions at the falls begin to fail. For more information about these snails, click here.