After 20 years of living only in captivity, the federally endangered Magnificent Ramshorn has been returned to the wild. Yesterday, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) reintroduced 2,000 of these aquatic snails into a pond on NCWRC Game Lands in Brunswick County.
“They are a unique part of North Carolina’s natural history heritage. The original wild populations died out from degradation of natural habitats and poor water quality,” said NCWRC’s Inland Fisheries Chief Christian Waters. “It has been a labor of dedication, thoughtful planning, partnerships and support from our Commissioners to make this extremely significant conservation win occur.”
The Magnificent Ramshorn is a large freshwater snail, endemic (found nowhere else in the world) to the lower Cape Fear River basin in North Carolina. The snail is about 1.5 inches long when fully grown, with leopard-like spots on its shell and a rich, maroon-colored body.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) issued the NCWRC a permit in October 2022 for reintroduction projects encompassing 21 aquatic species. The two agencies entered into an agreement allowing the NCWRC to extend assurances to participating nonfederal landowners for the reintroduction of the Magnificent Ramshorn under this permit. The snails made quite a splash by being the first of these 21 species in the state to take advantage of this new tool. In early October, a smaller batch of snails was placed in the pond to document how the animals would respond to their first foray in the wild. Monitoring surveys confirmed the stocking was a success. Staff then moved forward with the November 16 stocking of the additional snails.
“We are excited about the promising early results, representing a significant step toward species recovery,” said Emilia Omerberg, NCWRC Aquatic Snail Biologist. “Initial monitoring indicates the snails have survived and reproduced in the pond, including the first wild hatches since the early 2000s.”
The snails are propagated at NCWRC’s Conservation Aquaculture Center in Marion, N.C., and transported across the state to the release site. This project is funded by a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and is supported by a suite of partners including the Coastal Plain Conservation Group, USFWS, N.C. State University and the Military Ocean Terminal at Sunny Point.
“Reintroducing an endangered species requires multi-agency collaboration and public support,” said NCWRC Assistant Chief of Inland Fisheries Rachael Hoch. “We have been very fortunate to have strong partnerships in this effort and will continue to seek support from landowners and organizations for the remaining aquatic, priority species in this multi-year effort.”
In mid-October, a second of the 21 imperiled species listed in the permit, the Roanoke Logperch, was successfully stocked in the upper Mayo River through collaboration with a private landowner, Piedmont Land Conservancy and the Mayo River State Park.
NCWRC biologists will monitor the snails’ progress and may add more to the pond at a later date. They are researching potential future locations for stocking as well. The public can follow the progress of Magnificent Ramshorns and learn more about this species by visiting Restoring Aquatic Species in North Carolina.