RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A new invasive species has made its way to North Carolina, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission announced Monday.

Apple snails, a harmful invasive aquatic species, have been found along the Lumber River in Lumberton, according to the announcement.

Where are they from?

Wildlife officials say apple snails are native to South America, and this is the first known population of them in North Carolina.

N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission

They say the species has made its way around the world, becoming problematic in Europe, Asia and multiple states in the U.S.

The NCWRC said they learned the species was in North Carolina when a concerned citizen sent them photos of suspected apple snail egg clusters.

One of their biologists then inspected multiple sites along the Lumber River and collected the egg masses, which they said were confirmed to be apple snail eggs at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences.

NCWRC surveys also detected adult snails and eggs near the I-95 bridge crossing of the Lumber River, at the High Hill Boating Access Area and in Fivemile Branch, a tributary to the Lumber River, officials said.

Why are they problematic?

According to wildlife officials, apple snails can damage plants used by many native aquatic species while grazing, and they have also been known to feed on amphibian eggs.

They said the apple snails also present human health risks — possibly carrying rate lungworm, which can cause a potentially deadly disease in humans if the snails are eaten raw or undercooked.

The snail’s eggs also contain a toxin which can cause a rash on the skin or eyes, officials explained.

What do they look like?

N.C. Wildlife officials say apple snails are most easily recognizable by their distinctive large, bright pink egg clusters.

They said those clusters can be found on solid surfaces like tree trunks, concrete, or other vegetation and above the waterline along the edges of streams, rivers or ponds.

When the eggs hatch, experts say the young snails will drop into the water, eventually growing into 2-to-6-inch full-size adults.

This is much larger than any of North Carolina’s native aquatic snails, according to the NCWRC.

Experts say female apple snails can lay eggs as often as once a week, which allows population to grow and spread rapidly.

N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission

What should I do?

Because apple snails are an invasive species, the NCWRC says it is unlawful to transport, purchase, possess, sell or stock them in North Carolina.

If you see apple snails or their eggs, you’re asked to report it online via the Aquatic Nuisance Species Reporting Tool.

You’ll be asked to include a photograph and location where they were found.

Once you document the location, experts say you can destroy the egg masses by crushing them and scraping them in the water using a stick or boat paddle, making sure they sink without touching them with bare skin.

They say adult snails can be destroyed by crushing them or freezing them.

To prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species, NCWRC offers the following guidance:  

  • Clean: Equipment of all aquatic plants, animals and mud.  
  • Drain: Water from boats, live wells, bait buckets and all equipment.  
  • Dry: All equipment thoroughly  
  • Never Move: Fish, plants or other organisms from one body of water to another.