Some Facts About Snails

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My recent encounter with snails almost didn’t happen. I had signed up for a 5k race and promptly forgot about it. Queue last week after I had returned from my Adirondack trip when I got an email reminding me about the race that was just 2 days away.

Nooooooo, I thought. I hadn’t been running in weeks, which isn’t exactly smart, considering the half marathon I’m supposed to be running at the end of July.

Nothing tastes as good as a post-race beer.

My little sister had forgotten to sign up and was getting over an illness anyway, so it was going to be just me. Normally, I’d be able to put on a big girl face and just go do it. But I was NOT in the mood for bravery and independence. I waited until the very last minute to get changed into running gear, pin on my bib, and get gas in my car. I could always park, see how I was feeling, and just leave without running if I wanted.

But that 1 free beer tempted me. When I parked, I decided to walk over to the race starting line. It was raining off and on. When the countdown ended, I decided to start running with all the other racers.

Not even a half mile in, I started to notice them. Dead snails, crushed under the feet of hundreds of unaware runners, too busy keeping their pace to bother looking down where they stepped. It crushed my heart. I pointed them out to the people running nearby, hoping they’d be more alert than the runners up ahead.

A very much alive snail, thank goodness.

I saw dead snails along the entire race.

It was perfect snail habitat, too. Buffalo’s Wilkeson Point is located at the Outer Harbor, right along the lake shore. There are tons of tall grasses and flowers, as well as rain gardens full of plants that snails love. It had also been raining a lot during the run. I don’t know if snails are like worms and come out after a good rain, but it sure seemed like it to me.

I had my free beer (that actually wasn’t free because I had to pay the race fee in order to sign up). Then I started walking back to my car. I had stopped to take some photos of the lake and some wildflowers near the road when I saw a few live snails that had survived the carnage.

Rain gardens are so fucking important. Green infrastructure = less contaminants getting into our waterways.

Then I saw a few more. And a few more. And then I noticed the most incredible thing.

The snails had climbed up the plants along the road. Hundreds and hundreds of climbing snails. It was beautiful and gave me so much hope. I’ve never seen anything like it in all my life, and that moment is going to stick with me forever.

The flowers I was photographing just before noticing all the snails.

I’ve been pretty interested in snails since reading The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elizabeth Tova Bailey. Then after seeing so many post-race, I knew I needed to know even more.

Snails are molluscs, and there are a ton of different kinds. There are fresh water snails, garden snails, snails that live in the oceans. I’m not sure what kind these were (I haven’t given snail ID a whirl yet). But they were stinking cute.

Snails climbing plants! Look at those adorable little acrobats!

They all have shells (most people call gastropods without shells slugs). They leave a trail of slime behind them when they shuffle along any surface. They can rest on stems that are perpendicular to the ground, or even upside down on branches.

They have lots of tiny little teeth that they use when they chew vegetation and whatever else suits their fancy. In The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, the author’s snail experimented with eating paper for a little bit.

Snails, unfortunately, are not immune to human cruelty. They are used for food (looking at you, les escargos), and their shells are often used in jewelry. Apparently some types of cosmetics use snails in their ingredients – if your skin cream uses something called helix aspersa, that’s a snail. What the fuck.

I love them. I’m obsessed!

The slime that some snails produce is also apparently a great dye, and it’s been used in textiles for people who can afford super high end stuff. Also, what the fuck.

These little guys are so cute and are just trying to live their lives. Let’s not fucking interfere, okay?

The pretty view I had while running, which was the silver lining after seeing so many dead crushed snails.

Sources – the great Wikipedia and a lovely website called Snail-World.com

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