snail-croppedA live specimen of the critically endangered Mitchell’s Rainforest Snail has been found in the Ross Lane area near Lennox Head.

The snail was found by a female resident, and was identified by another local resident who found and identified a dead specimen in the same area last year.

“I walked past the lady’s house and she said ‘I’ve been told to ask you what this is’,” the man, who does not want to be identified, said.

“She said it hadn’t moved for two days.”

There was a very good reason for that: the snail showed signs of having come into contact with a snail bait.

The man kept flushing the poison out with water, and it took a week for the snail to recover.

The healthy specimen was returned to its natural habitat.

Between 1955 and 1995, Mitchell’s Rainforest Snail was recorded at only two to three sites, despite the Queensland Museum extensively collecting for species of snails in the littoral rainforests of the area.

Since 1995, NSW National Parks and Wildlife has conducted surveys for Mitchell’s Rainforest Snail that targeted suitable habitat, and undertaken public awareness campaigns for the species.

This research has found the species at a number of sites at five locations – Stotts Island, Banora Point, Byron Bay, Suffolk Park and Lennox Head (TSSC 2002i). The largest known population of Mitchell’s Rainforest Snail is in Stotts Island Nature Reserve in the Tweed River near Murwillumbah.

Mitchell’s Rainforest Snail is a large land snail with a shell up to 5.5cm wide and 5cm high.

The shell has a strongly elevated spire, giving it a triangular profile and a thickened, reflected lip.

The shell is deep reddish chestnut to black in colour with two prominent yellow bands and has a satin appearance when held close to the light. The snail’s body colour is black with a thin lighter line on the dorsal midline. Mitchell’s Rainforest Snail has an average weight of 25g.

The estimated number of mature individuals is low, with an estimated total population of less than 500 mature individuals

Mitchell’s Rainforest Snail (Thersites mitchellae) , or ‘Mitch’ as the snail is affectionately called, is the subject of a current local research project.

Byron, Ballina and Tweed Shire councils’ natural resource management staff have teamed up with Southern Cross University students and staff to undertake ecological research on the threatened species.

Byron Shire Council ecologist Mark Robinson said despite Mitch’s habitat being close to the coastal towns, there have been very few specimens of the snail observed.

“We are fortunate to have a research institute, such as Southern Cross University (SCU), in our region to undertake this important research,” Mr Robinson said.

If you think you have seen ‘Mitch’ anywhere, please contact Byron Shire Council ecologist, Mark Robinson on (02) 6626 7049.

PICTURE: The live Mitchell’s Rainforest Snail, and a dead one found last year, near Lennox Head.