The Montana Invasive Species Council (MISC) today issued recommendations to guide necessary research and management efforts for the Eastern heath snail (EHS), a terrestrial invasive snail with established populations in Montana. The Montana Department of Agriculture (MDA) first discovered a population of the Eastern heath snail in July 2012 near Belt, MT. Since that time, MDA has worked with landowners and stakeholders in and around Belt to monitor and suppress the population and to detect and respond to new populations. Since their initial introduction, satellite populations have been discovered in Monarch, Great Falls, and in the Highwood areas.
Invasive terrestrial snails have invaded a variety of habitats around the world and have the ability to damage native plants, agricultural crops, contaminate agricultural exports and potentially transmit parasites to livestock, wildlife, and people. MISC partnered with MDA as well as the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS), and the Montana State University (MSU) to enlist assistance from the scientific community by forming a science advisory panel.
In December 2020, MISC convened panelists comprised of gastropod managers, scientists, and researchers to review the state of science about the basic biology of the EHS and identify gaps in knowledge. The panel identified key challenges associated with containing and managing the EHS and approaches to address those challenges; they provided next steps to be taken by researchers, regulators, and managers regarding the containment and management of the EHS.
“The panel was a successful step in gathering information and gaps about the potential risks of the species and its basic biology,” said MISC Chair Bryce Christiaens. “We are at the early stages of the invasion curve for this species, and the panel recommendations will support efforts to contain and manage the snail before it becomes a problem .”
Science Advisory Panelists included the following individuals:
Helena Brodie, Agricultural Entomologist, South Australian Research and Development Institute
Jeni Cena, Pest Biologist 2, Washington Department of Agriculture
Jennifer Birdsall, Research Associate, Montana State University
Jeffrey Littlefield, Ph.D., Research Scientist, Montana State University
Nathan Luke, Surveillance Coordinator, Australia Department of Agriculture
Rory McDonnell, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Oregon State University, College of Agricultural Science
David G. Robinson, Ph.D., National Malacologist, USDA APHIS National Malacology Laboratory
Amy Roda, Ph. D., Entomologist, USDA APHIS-PPQ Center for Plant Health Science and Technology
Brian Sullivan, Plant Safeguarding Specialist, USDA APHIS PPQ
Key findings and recommendations from the panel address biology, impacts, education and outreach, prevention and management. These include:
Key challenges and recommendations can be found at misc.mt.gov, as well as a video that provides an overview of the history, current status, and research underway for the Eastern heath snail in Belt, MT.