I thought I would take a moment to poke fun at wildlife bloggers who love to wax poetic about mammals to the detriment of the lesser-respected but no less interesting gastropods!
Gastropods are truly amazing. They live on land and under the sea. They are second only to insects in their numbers and diversity. They usually have a well-defined head and two to four sensory tentacles. They are beautiful, mysterious, and leave slime trails, at least on land. What’s not to love!
The Banana Slug is one of my favorite gastropods. It is the second largest slug in the world. It can reach up to 10 inches long and lives in the moist forest of the Santa Cruz Mountains and other Pacific coast coniferous forests. They are one of nature’s composters, gleefully nibbling on dead plants and animal droppings. If they weren’t so yellow, they might have been called the “green machine” for their zero waste habits. Ha, take that Al Gore!
Whenever I visit Santa Cruz I make a pilgrimage to Felton State Park where I took my first picture in the 9th grade. This park is a dank, moss-encrusted tangle of redwoods and coniferous trees. The perfect place to hunt the slug! I bagged this particular specimen in April 2007. He/she, because banana slugs are…ooooh la la hermaphrodites, was about six inches long. I won’t regale you the hours I spent behind a slug blind waiting for this prey to appear before I was able to swoop down and make this shot.
Finally, my hats go off to UC Santa Cruz whose students chose the Banana Slug as their mascot. Just another rodent was much too commonplace for this unique school!