Endangered Banff snail threatened by dry springs

The Banff Springs snails are facing a tough 2011, with the hot springs slowly drying up where the unique mollusks live.

The Banff Springs snails are facing a tough 2011, with the hot springs slowly drying up where the rare mollusks live.

The snails live in an area fed by the Upper Hot Springs, one of the resort town's most popular tourist attractions. Most of them live where the water gurgles up from the ground.

But that source is drying up, and there are predictions next spring will be particularly hard on the snails.

"I'm not sure we actually can do anything to deal with the drying up. I think if it's a result of things like climate change, or a lack of snow, we certainly can't do anything with respect to that," said Charlie Pacas, an aquatics specialist with Parks Canada.

One option is to temporarily evacuate one group of the snails to an aquarium, but that's not seen as desirable because moving them could actually change the species.

The Banff Springs snail, which is about half the size of a kernel of corn, isn't found anywhere else in the world.

It's been estimated they became their unique selves about 10,000 years ago, when glaciers retreated from the Banff area and prehistoric lake levels dropped.

The Banff Springs snail has a shell that spirals to the left, whereas most snails have shells that spiral to the right, according to Parks Canada.