OLYMPIA, Wash. - "This is them all over this thing," said Allen Pleus as he held up a piece of driftwood pulled from Capitol Lake.
The State Fish & Wildlife Department's Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator talks about New Zealand Mud snails with a mix of admiration and fear.
"These are the world's perfect invader," said Pleus.
The full grown snails measure in at about an eighth of an inch, but they can multiply by several hundred each per year and can take over a water body like Capitol Lake in a few years. The little, non-native species give a whole new meaning to a snail's pace.
The snails are not blamed for expensive damage to pumps and engines like the much larger zebra mussels, but scientists say they will crowd out local species live native snails and can turn an ecosystem on its ear. And since they are so small and mobile, state officials are taking no chances. They have recommended closing the popular lake to contact by humans or pets. That means no canoes, kayaks or swimming people or dogs in the lake until they figure out their next step.
One possible method of attack may be to lower the lake enough to freeze out the snails this winter.