Rosy Wolf Snails

We don’t have wolves at Camp Salmen but our mollusks have to put up with the equivalent - the Rosy Wolf Snail (Euglandina rosea). These are vicious, slow-moving predators who prefer to consume other soft-bodied slow movers like slugs (“No shell, no fur, no claws, no bones - just pure protein. Yum!”). They can also slurp a snail right out of its shell, without seasoning, earning them another name: Cannibal Snail. Fortunately, most of our readers aren’t mollusks and have nothing to fear.

There were a lot of these snails in the neighborhood where I grew up and since they couldn’t outrun me, they did not escape my curiosity. (Maybe I couldn’t find anyone else who would play with me.) When you pick up one it draws up into its shell right away but gamely creeps back out to resume its hustle and bustle. They have curious little eyestalks, feelers, tasters and sniffers protruding from their business ends. These shrink and disappear when you trifle with them but quickly grow back as the animal resumes its normal operations, which is moving ever forward to find its next victim and meal.

The snail’s light-brown shell actually does have a rosy hue and is surprisingly lightweight and fragile. This light weight is combined with a relatively large two inch long “foot” that enables them to travel three times faster than their prey so they always win the “Fat Man Race.”  We used to find silvery slime trails all over our patio in the morning. Apparently this wasn’t just meaningless meanderings; the snails were actually on the hunt the night before. Where these paths converged is probably where they sensed prey with their sensors and took off in “hot” pursuit to follow a trail to the target. No wonder I saw all those empty shells lying around. You have to love their technique. It involves using that giant foot to wrestle the victim, stabbing him with a “radula” and extractingprotein, other details are not suitable for a family newspaper. You’ll stop thinking of them as some kind of cute creature from Mother Nature’s pixie garden.

After I saw one crossing the road the other day I remembered my old association with them and determined to learn more (I love the Internet).  I found out a lot of new stuff about them but didn’t find out the one specific thing I asked myself when I saw that snail: Why was it crossing the road?

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