Species at Risk

Banff Springs Snail

Physella johnsoni

What's the status of the Banff springs snail?

Who Knew?

The snail population goes up and down with the seasons. When it is at its lowest, the entire population of Banff springs snails would fit inside an ice cream cone. At its highest, all of the snails would fit inside a one-litre milk carton!

The Banff springs snail is protected by federal law under Schedule1 of the Species at Risk Act. COSEWIC designated the species threatened in 1997, upgrading it to endangered in 2000 because of its extremely limited distribution, the many threats to its habitat and significant fluctuations in its population numbers. The Government of Alberta has ranked the Banff Spring snail at risk.

What's so special about the Banff springs snail?

What makes this snail special is the rare and harsh environment it inhabits. Thermal springs contain little oxygen. However, high concentrations of dissolved hydrogen sulphide gas and minerals are present, and even some radioactivity! The springs are also home to unique algae and bacteria.

A cluster of Banff springs snails.
Most Banff springs snails inhabit the part of the spring where the water gurgles up from the ground.
© Parks Canada / M. & L Degner / 2002


Most of the snails on Sulphur Mountain inhabit the part of the spring where the water gurgles up from the ground. Here they enjoy their preferred temperatures of 30 to 36 degrees Celsius (a bit cooler than bath water).