Monday, July 18, 2011

A Mollusk Mitzvah

For over a year now—pretty much since we’ve moved here—I’ve been asking, “Where are the snails of DC?”

This has been, by default, a rhetorical question, since the only person I ask regularly (sorry, Annie) doesn’t know. It doesn’t stop me from wondering, though. In Boston, after every rain the land snails would be out in droves, crawling along the elevated stone walls of front gardens, waggling their eye stalks in the shadow of leaves, gliding with infinite patience along the stems of roses.

Here in DC, the land snails are conspicuous by their absence. Occasionally I’ll be taunted by the sight of a dried, glittering trail of mucus on the pavement, a tantalizing trace of some gastropod’s passage—but never a glimpse of the creature itself.

[an elusive--but still visible--Boston snail]

Until a couple of weeks ago, when, walking home from the farmers’ market, I saw it: a beautiful leopard-spotted slug lying on the sidewalk.

It was not a damp day, and the slug wasn’t moving, so I feared the worst. But when I touched it lightly with a leaf, it twitched, and my heart leapt up. I gently nudged it onto the leaf and carried it to the raised curb bordering a yard. I couldn’t resist talking some pictures of it as it recovered from its trauma and began to stretch itself and extend its eye stalks curiously. Soon enough, though, I realized that, while it was now safe from foot traffic, it wasn’t protected from the sun, so I tucked it under the shade of a yew bush and went on my way.

The whole encounter—my first slug spotting in DC and the opportunity to rescue a pulmonate in distress—left me with a warm glow that lasted all day. I guess it’s true that virtue is its own reward.

{A note: I do write all text and take all pictures. Please do not reproduce either without my permission.}


Mike B. said...

Congrats! We have a few million slugs here in Oregon that you can borrow...

Robin said...

Bummer, though, that at least two of those gastropods were exotics. Wonder if there are any native snail or slug species living there?

Olivia V. Ambrogio said...

Oh, no! Which ones are exotics? And do they include the lovely spotted slug? (Not that I regret having saved that individual, but still.)

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