We have had quite a long dry spell but overnight it had rained a bit and so when I went down the valley to feed the sheep this morning the wet weather had brought out some of our largest resident molluscs - Helix pomatia, know in England as Roman snails and as Burgundy or edible snails in France. They are in fact the species of snail you will be eating if you order escargots in a French restaurant.
|Helix pomatia near my ancient Nokia phone to show their large size|
In France they are a relatively common native species found on a wide range of habitats with calcareous soils that give them calcium needed to build their shells that grow up to 5cm across. In England however they are not native and were introduced by the Romans to supplement their diet (hence their name).
In mainland Europe and especially France, Roman or Burgundy snails are collected both by individuals for their own dinner and commercial operators to sell on. However the loss of habitat and excessive commercial collecting is reducing numbers and it is now being restricted in some countries. In England they are rare and limited to chalk grassland of southern counties where they are protected under The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. This means if you fancy heading out to collect some Roman snails you cannot as the law prohibits anyone to collect, sell, injure or kill Roman snails.
With snails such a popular dish in France there are now snail farms to breed these large molluscs, including one near to Eco-Gites of Lenault that you can visit.
And I'll leave this particular Animal Tale with a question - how can tell if the snails pictured above are males or females? I can tell - but can you?