Popular wildlife spot north of Payson closes to the public over biosecurity concerns
Jun 26, 2023, 4:25 AM
(Photos by USDA Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
PHOENIX – Thanks to tiny foreign invaders, wildlife lovers won’t be able to visit the Tonto Creek Hatchery any time soon. Non-native New Zealand mudsnails are in Tonto Creek, the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) announced on Wednesday.
Since Tonto Creek is around 2.5 miles downstream from the hatchery, officials think the mudsnails may have infected the hatchery.
Currently, the AZGFD is surveying Tonto Creek to see how bad the infestation is. The Tonto Creek Hatchery closed to the public on Thursday to make the search easier.
“This will provide AZGFD with time to enhance biosecurity protocols,” the department announced in a press release. They’ll also use this time to “evaluate infrastructure investments” that could better protect the native species.
Why mudsnails are a threat to the Tonto Creek Hatchery
This is the second mudsnail shutdown this year. The public temporarily lost access to the Canyon Creek Hatchery in April after officials found invasive snails in the nearby creek.
Since New Zealand mudsnails aren’t native to Arizona, they can compete with local invertebrates for food. In turn, this can hurt native mollusks and sportfish populations.
This species is especially hard to stamp out because it reproduces asexually. It only takes one mudsnail to quickly overtake a waterway.
They’ve been a thorn in AZGFD’s side since 2002 when they made their first appearance in the Colorado River below Lake Powell. The snails spread through the Grand Canyon, Lake Mead and Lake Mohave, according to AZGFD.
Mudsnails can turn people who want to enjoy the outdoors into inadvertent snail-spreaders. Go out kayaking or fishing and you might leave with a tiny mudsnail attached to your boat. Take that same boat to another body of water and the snail could start reproducing — and taking over yet another waterway.
It’s easy to do since these mudsnails are anywhere from 4 to 6 millimeters in length.