Hurricane Ian washes up millions of snails along Lake Monroe

Unpleasant smell lingers as dead snails decay

Dead snails can be seen washed up along the edge of Lake Monroe in Sanford — another example of Hurricane Ian’s impact on Central Florida.

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – Dead snails can be seen washed up along the edge of Lake Monroe in Sanford — another example of Hurricane Ian’s impact on Central Florida.

“This was, of course, very severe because you actually had the winds pushing the water out over the banks and carrying the snails, so when the water started coming back in, it left the snails high and dry,” Dr. William Kern, Jr. said.

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Kern is an associate professor with the Department of Entomology and Nematology at the Ft. Lauderdale Research and Education Center for the University of Florida.

According to Kern, it’s a natural occurrence with the banded mystery snail.

“They are known for occurring in very high densities,” Kern said.

That specific snail has a coiled spiral shell measuring up to 1 1/2 inches and is typically found in the sandy-bottomed areas of lakes, ponds, slow-moving rivers and streams.

“What happens during hurricanes with the flooding and the higher water levels, the snails, they live in fresh water,” Jamie Ling, a UCF research technician with the Department of Biology, said.

According to Ling, the snails live in shallow waters and tend to be displaced after a hurricane or major storm.

“Unfortunately, a lot of our small birds that are mammals that feed off of the snails, they’re going to be lacking in food source,” Ling said.

The banded mystery snail is native to North America and is generally found in bodies of water across the southeastern and midwestern United States, from Central Florida up to northern Illinois.

After washing up from Lake Monroe, they’ve caused a distinct smell in the air. However, Kern said there’s no need for concern.

“These are volatile organic compounds that are released during decomposition. They are unpleasant, but generally, they are not toxic,” he said.

According to Seminole County officials, there may be increases in snail populations in places where water has receded, like what happened during Tropical Storm Fay, though local wildlife typically “take care of” the snails before those populations can grow too large.

County officials added that if snails have found their way onto a porch, patio or other part of a home, they can be treated with salt or hosed away thereafter.

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About the Author:

Carolina Cardona highlights all Central Florida has to offer in her stories on News 6 at Nine. She joined News 6 in June 2018 from the Telemundo station in Philadelphia.