March Species Spotlight: American Mink and Chinese Mystery Snail

March 25, 2023

Native Species: American Mink (Neogale vision)

American Mink crossing Wallkill Valley Rail Trail

American Mink crossing Wallkill Valley Rail Trail. Photo by WVLT volunteer John.

Earlier this month one of our dedicated chainsaw volunteers was out on the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail clearing up some dead ash trees which fell down during a storm. He witnessed and photographed an American Mink crossing the trail in the vicinity of Whiteport Road. While not often seen, minks are quite common in North America.

They are a member of the weasel family ranging from 20 to 27 inches long and 2-3 pounds, they are larger than weasels and smaller than otters, two other members of the weasel family found locally. Known for their soft fluffy fur, the mink was trapped and also farmed as a source of fur.

American Mink

Photo by Nicole Beaulac

The preferred habitat of the wild mink includes a mix of forest and water such as a stream or riverbanks. The prefer to live in burrows in stream banks, under logs and in hollows of trees.

A healthy mink population can help keep the ecosystem in balance. Minks eat land animals such as mice and rabbits. As a predator of the deer mouse, the mink can help reduce the prevalence of the black legged tick, a known carrier of tick-borne diseases. Mink will also eat aquatic animals like fish and frogs but they will eat other animals as well, including snails. While there are no studies showing they eat this month’s invasive mystery snail, it is not out of the question as snails can be part of their diet.



Invasive Species: Chinese Mystery Snail (Bellamya chinensis)

Chinese Mystery Snail

Chinese Mystery Snail in winter. Photo by Brent Mitchell.

The Chinese Mystery Snail is listed as a Tier 2 emerging invasive species in our region by the Lower Hudson PRISM. The snail has been found in aquatic ecosystems in North America beginning in the early 1900’s with likely introductions being released from aquariums. The snails were found in Chinese food markets beginning in the late 1800’s.

Found in slow moving water of ponds, rivers, and lakes, the snails prefer a muddy substrate surrounded by dense vegetation. The snail is rather large, with their shells getting up to two inches long. Historically not considered an invasive species, they tend to eat algae, organic and inorganic matter on the bottom of the aquatic system. The large snails have also been used in aquariums to help control algae.

Different from the apple snail which is also sometimes called a mystery snail, the Chinese Mystery Snail give birth to live young. This species however, has been shown to be hosts for parasites that can infect waterfowl and they can form clusters which will clog up water intake systems. These two issues combined have placed them as an emerging invasive species in our area. If the populations increase, it may be time to bring back eating the Chinese mystery snail to help control populations.