By Fred Groves
Lake stewardship continues to be a high priority for many who call Haliburton County their home.
This past summer, under the direction of the Coalition of Haliburton Property Owners Associations (CHA), over 420,000 invasive snails – either Banded mystery snail or the Chinese Mystery Snail were removed from the area lakes.
“A couple of years ago South Lake started to see these big invasive snails that are about the size of a walnut,” explained CHA Chairman Paul MacInnes.
Realizing that the snails were wreaking havoc upon the eco-system, the CHA teamed with the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) to come up with a plan to eliminate, or at least reduce, the number of harmful snails.
According to MacInnes, initially it looked as though red tape filled with restrictions was going to harbour any notions of getting rid of the snails. However, within a few short weeks, a plan was developed that will hopefully continue to benefit those who live and play on the lakes.
“We got partway through the investigation and found out you have to have a license to pick up a snail out of the lake,” said MacInnes.
By May, the CHA with the help of the OFAH’s invasive species program, rallied and were able to put together an instructional workshop on not only how to identify which snails are indigenous to the local lakes and cause no harm, as compared to the dangerous ones, along with how to dispose of them.
“I called the MNR and told them this was not going to work,” said MacInnes of the initial plan which was to wait up to two years just to get a license. And, to complicate things even more – only one license per lake.
Nearly 250 people showed up in May to learn about the program and many of them, as well as nearly 50 later in the spring, stepped up to volunteer their time to get rid of as many of the Banded Mystery Snail and the Chinese Mystery Snail as they could over the next few months prior the trout spawning season.
MacInnes was inspired and impressed by the large number of concerned and committed citizens and this past weekend, was happy to announce that over 40 of the lakes were monitored and on South Lake Michael and Beatrice Janikowski successfully eliminated 17,000.
“I was surprised we got 300 people. Haliburton County is well known throughout the province for the volunteerism we have.”
For several weeks, those volunteers would either walk the shores or get in their boat and steer into shallow waters and pick up the snails. They would take a picture of the snail, send it to OFAH expert who would immediately relay if it was an invasive snail. If it was, volunteers would euthanize the snails. Documentation is key to the success of this program with not only monitoring where the invasive snails are found but how many.
“You want to make sure you do it in a humane way so you can double bag them in clear bags and leave it out in the sun for a day and they take them to the dump,” said MacInnes who also noted that burying the snails would also kill them.
The reason that this program began, and it is the first in Ontario, is to eliminate as many of the snails as possible as they can reproduce and spread rapidly especially if they are picked up by birds. Also, the snails tend to prey on fish eggs, and can out-compete for food and habitat and effect of the native snails which are good for the lake as they help in the reduction of algae. Chinese Mystery Snails can also clog water intake pipes.
MacInnes said that the CHA will hold another training session in the spring and notes that many people are interested.
“We broke new ground on this which is typical for Haliburton County.”