RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — After a loss in habitats, changes in water flow and climate change, a snail only found in North Carolina’s lower Cape Fear River Basin is extinct in the wild. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the last time the magnificent ramshorn snail was at least 40 years ago.

The species isn’t totally wiped out. There are about 1,000 that live in captivity and the Service says it is being propagated for future release into the wild.

Now, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to list the snail as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.

“The science that the Service has gathered on the magnificent ramshorn indicates it is in danger of extinction throughout all of its range,” said Regional Director Leopoldo Miranda-Castro. “This narrow endemic needs our help. Working with state fish and wildlife agencies and our partners will help advance conservation efforts and the eventual recovery of the species.”  

In addition, the Service is also proposing to designate 739 acres of ponds as critical habitat for the magnificent ramshorn in Brunswick County. They say the snails could eventually be released there to repopulate their historical habitat.

The service says two ponds (Orton Pond and Big Pond) within the proposed boundaries would be suitable habitats for the snail. 

They also announced the availability of a draft economic analysis of the proposed designation of critical habitat. The total incremental costs of critical habitat designation are estimated to be less than $21,000, annually. 

The NC Division of Water Resources and the Service are working with the city of Wilmington, North Carolina, to improve the water quality of Greenfield Lake, which formerly supported the species.  

If the species receives federal protection, the Service will be tasked with developing and implementing a recovery plan for the snail’s conservation. The ultimate goal would be to restore the species to a “point where they are secure, self-sustaining, and functioning components of their ecosystems.”