The Banff Springs Snail is an endangered species first discovered in 1926 and lives no where else on Earth, but Banff National Park. Even within the Canadian Rocky Mountain park, the tiny mollusc only lives in a few pockets of thermal hot springs, with a preferred water temperature of 30C to 36C.
Canada considers it an endangered species, prone to wild population fluctuations from a few dozen to many thousands.
The critter, no bigger than a kernel of corn, is threatened by the usual things, such as climate change, but also by thoughtless bathers who jump over fences, beyond warning signs and security cameras for a quick dip the hot pools the snail calls home. Of course, grubby humans – and all the soaps, chemicals and lotions slathered all over their bodies – can be murder on the snails.
So, when Parks Canada staff spotted a man on Nov. 26 bathing in a thermal pool at the Cave and Basin National Historic Site, home of the endangered snail, the trespasser was taken particularly seriously.
“Park wardens responded and arrested the suspect, who was subsequently charged with entering a closed area under the National Parks General Regulations and Species At Risk Act,” Mark Merchant, a park spokesman said in a press release.
The unidentified man is charged under National Parks of Canada regulations for entering a restricted area, which comes with a maximum fine $25,000. He is also charged with damaging or destroying critical habitat under the federal Species at Risk Act, which can be met with a fine of up to $50,000, one year in jail, or both.
He is scheduled to appear in an Alberta court on Jan. 14.
This isn’t the first time someone has been charged with unlawful bathing, but the sentences have never reached those upper limits.
Photo Parks Canada