Authorities are trying to locate a rogue swimmer after reports of an illegal dip that potentially devastated the Banff hot spring habitat of a highly endangered snail.
Despite warning signs around the pool in the Cave and Basin National Historic Site, park officials believe a rogue bather entered the water on Sunday Mar. 3.
His action disturbed a thin membrane of organic material on the water’s surface which is invaluable to the survival of the Banff Springs snail.
“There was destruction and damage to their critical habitat including the microbial mat,” Dr. Dwayne Lepitzki, a conservation biologist who studies the snails, told CTV Calgary.
“There could have been a few individuals that died but we’ll never be able to know exactly how many died.”
According to researchers the rare snail population has at times been fewer than 100.
The tiny gastropods are the size of a kernel of corn and are found in only seven pools at Sulphur Mountain.
The creatures, which have lungs and can drown, rely on floating mats of organic material as their habitat.
When someone goes swimming in the pools the mats tends to break apart and submerge, killing eggs and immature snails.
There have been several instances of swimmers entering the pool, including two Parks Canada employees who were each fined $1,500.
A man from Ontario who went swimming there in 2014 was fined $4,500.
Authorities are trying to locate the individual responsible for Sunday’s incident and anyone with information is urged to call Banff dispatch on 403 762 1470.
More on this story from CTVNews.ca