Category Archives: Wildlife Sightings

Pacific sideband snail

Snail fullSome wild animals in the park don’t attract much attention. They don’t fly, they don’t run, they don’t even walk, nor do they run away or dig holes to evade detection. They are seldom noticed. They are not furry or feathery, or cute or pretty. And they don’t vocalize with chirps or growls or any other sounds.

Such is the Pacific sideband snail.

Take a close look at it, and it is attractive—sort of. It’s a big snail relative to other snail species. Its colorful shell, shaped like an ear’s cochlea, has an orderly pattern of reddish brown, dark brown, black, beige, and other colors. The raised central whorl of the shell is worn and pale, typical of this snail species. Its fleshy part outside its shell is colored two shades of brown. Tiny raised milk chocolate shapes crowd the surface of the dark bitter sweet chocolate skin. Two long delicate retractable tentacles come out of its forehead, and two short ones come out on either side of its mouth. The longer forehead tentacles end in eyes. A slow moving animal, it travels at a snail’s pace.

Loss and fragmentation of habitat has greatly reduced the snail’s population, though it’s not yet on a U.S list of endangered or watched animal species. British Columbia, Canada, however, has it on its concerned list.

The snail prefers habitat of moist ground layered with leaves, fir needles, moss, and other debris in deciduous and coniferous forests. The shell at full maturity, which takes two years, measures about an inch and three-eighths in diameter. The snail can live up to six years.

The snail eats fungi and most any vegetation. It eats using its radula. A combination of tongue and teeth is an inaccurate though useful way of describing it. They use it to scrape and shred food so it can be ingested.

Snails are simultaneous hermaphrodites. They are both male and female, that is, they have both male and female sex organs at the same time. (Serial hermaphrodites have both male and female organs but at different times in their life cycle).

Most snails, including the Pacific sideband, have two pairs of tentacles. The uppermost pair carries eyes. The lower pair is the snail’s nostrils.


Tracking Nighttime Visitors

Winter is a great time to figure out who is hanging out at the park when no one is looking.  Prints in the mud and snow allow you to identify the creature who made them, and a series of tracks can tell a whole story.  

The tracks below are that of a raccoon, a common nighttime marauder at Silver Falls.  The raccoon’s hind tracks are larger than its front—with five toes on each, they resemble the human hand and foot. 

When walking, the stocky raccoon is a “waddler,” moving the front and hind limbs on one side of the body at the same time.  When moved to pick up the pace (perhaps due to a visit by the evening ranger), a raccoon will start to “gallop,” moving the front feet together and then the hind.

Where was this raccoon headed?  Look closely.  Fortunately, it was foiled by a latch this time around!



List Lovers, Look No Further: Wildlife Species Lists

Here are the most up-to-date wildlife species lists.    Find an error or have an update?  Let us know! 

Mammals of Silver Falls

Birds of Silver Falls State Park

Reptiles & Amphibians of Silver Falls

Invertebrates of Silver Falls, Partial Listing

Interested in completing an invertebrate study?  Let us know!

Caution: Newts Crossing!

When I found my first rough-skinned newt making its way across the trail, I stuck my hand in its path so that I could feel its feet padding over me.  Had I known then what I know now, I would have kept my hands to myself.  (Or would have at least washed them!)  These 6 to 8-inch stocky newts can secrete a toxin throughout their skin that can be deadly to predators who dare to eat them.  And we humans are not immune.  These days, I keep my hands clear and belly-down instead of pick-up for a closer look.

Rough-skinned newts tend to travel during the day, and for this reason, they are one of the most frequently spotted salamanders at Silver Falls.  (All newts are salamanders; not all salamanders are newts.)  Just last week, I spotted three newts on the Canyon Trail and nearly stepped on a fourth–and would have if my hiking partner hadn’t warned me.  When moving along, the rough-skinned newt’s brownish, bumpy skin blends right in with the trail.  But, if you upset one, you’ll receive fair warning!  When threatened, the newt strikes a defensive pose–arching its back and curling up it tail to flash a pumpkin-orange belly.  This is a warning to predators (and you) to stand back.

A terrestrial (living on land) salamander for most of the year, the rough-skinned newt does migrate to aquatic areas to breed.  They prefer slow-moving creeks, lakes, and ponds.  They typically head to their watery breeding grounds in the spring, but might begin their journey as early as December or as late as June.  I wonder, were the newts I found were on their way to meet their mate?  There’s a good chance.  So, keep your eyes open for these fantastic rough-skinned newts crossing!