A visitor’s illegal Sunday afternoon dip in a sulphur hot spring in Banff  potentially devastated the habitat of a highly endangered snail population that is only found on the lower slopes of Sulphur Mountain.

Despite the numerous signs posted around the pool in the Cave and Basin National Historic Site, an unknown man entered the water and proceed to swim on March 3, 2019 . His actions disturbed the thin membrane of organic material that forms along the rocks which is invaluable to the survival of the Banff Springs snail.

“There was destruction and damage to their critical habitat including the microbial mat,” said Dr. Dwayne Lepitzki, a conservation biologist who studies the snails.  “There could have been a few individuals that died but we’ll never be able to know exactly how many died.”

According to the counts of researchers, the population of the critically endangered gastropods has, at times, been fewer than 100 snails. The only locations in the world where the endangered snails, which are approximately the size of a kernel of corn, have been found are in seven pools situated within near distance of each other.   

The long-term impact on the pool as a result of the visitor’s ill-advised swim  is unknown. There have been several instances where people have entered the pool in recent years including an incident involving two Parks Canada employees. The staff members were each fined $1,500 for their actions.

Law enforcement wardens are attempting to identify the Sunday afternoon swimmer and say he will likely face a hefty fine.

Anyone who witnessed the swim or has information regarding the identity of the swimmer is asked to contact Banff dispatch at 403-762-1470.