BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — A rare Alabama animal has been proposed for endangered species protections.
An Alabama snail was previously considered extinct until 2011, but one small population in Alabama remains. The oblong rocksnail is native to the Cahaba River, which flows 180 miles from Birmingham through central Alabama. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the rocksnail now only inhabits five miles of the river.
The rare snail was nearly driven extinct in the last century due to water pollution and habitat degradation. The species had not been seen for 70 years and was declared extinct in 2000 until it was rediscovered in 2011. The oblong rocksnails live downstream from municipal wastewater facilities, industrial facilities and coal mines, which have potential harmful contaminants to the Cahaba River.
Oblong rocksnails are also threatened by climate change. During droughts, nearly all the flow of the Cahaba River can disappear.
The Cahaba River is the longest free-flowing river in Alabama and is one of the most biologically diverse in the country. It supports 12 threatened and endangered species.
In 2016, the center petitioned to protect the rocksnail under the Endangered Species Act. Oblong rocksnails keep rivers clean by grazing on algae and they serve as food sources for fish and crayfish. They have bright yellow bodies with black bands and shelter beneath flat boulders.