Park Closes Lake to Protect Rare Mollusk
GLACIER NATIONAL PARK, Mont. Officials have closed one of the park's lakes to swimming in order to protect a small, rare mollusk living there.
Biologists say the Rocky Mountain capshell limpet needs the protection in Lost Lake, one of only 17 known homes to the limpet, because swimmers could too easily crush the small creatures.
The 17 sites are not only few, but also far between, leading researchers to theorize that the limpets were distributed long ago by widespread geologic forces, most notably the glaciers for which the park was named.
Bonnie Ellis, senior research scientist at the University of Montana's Flathead Lake Biological Station, recently completed a study of Lost Lake's miniature mollusks.
Closely related to snails, the capshells are shaped like a low cone and are just one-eighth inch in diameter. They were first found in Lost Lake some 40 years ago, but until Ellis started exploring the lake, no one had studied the population.
Among other findings, Ellis said the limpets' shells are very thin -- much thinner than those of other mollusks, putting them "seriously at risk from crushing by unknowing waders and swimmers."
While swimming is being curtailed at the lake, which is located along the lower stretches Going-to-the-Sun Road east of the Continental Divide, fishing will be allowed to continue, park officials said.
Earlier surveys have found that brook trout that were stocked in the lake in the 1970s eat limpets.
Source: Associated Press