If you’re paddling down the river and notice some pink globs (sort of resembling bubble gum) stuck just above the water line on cattail reeds or other shoreline vegetation, please take notice.
Those are egg sacks from the apple snail, an invasive species from South America that was illegally introduced to the Lower Salt River ecosystem about a decade ago, and has since begun to take over.
Native snails make up a significant portion of the ecosystem’s food supply. But the apple snails are outcompeting and overrunning the native snail population, in large part because there are no local predators that will eat them. Left unchecked, the apple snails could seriously damage the food chain for native fish and wildlife by displacing the native snail population that so many local animals rely on.
Tonto National Forest and Arizona Game and Fish Department have been working to reverse the spread of the now-prolific species, but it’s an uphill battle. A single female apple snail can lay up to 15,000 eggs each year. The agencies have asked paddlers to help assist their efforts.
If you see any of these egg sacks—and trust me, you will—please spend a few moments to help out. Simply use the edge of your paddle to knock or scrape the eggs into the river, where they can’t hatch. If each paddler knocks down just a few of these egg sacks each time they’re on the river, our collective efforts can add up quickly.