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San Antonio

Where Do The Snails And Scooters Go After Leaving San Antonio’s River Walk?

Most things that are thrown into the San Antonio River — whether they’re cell phones or softball-sized snails — have to come out. 

Drainings and cleanings at the River Walk happen on an as-needed basis, according to the San Antonio River Authority. For this go-around, city and SARA crews started on Monday and should finish by Thursday of this week. They worked together to drain, clean and repair the River Walk from Josephine to South Alamo streets. 

River Authority senior aquatic biologist Shaun Donovan said many items from River Walk restaurants are found once the water is drained.

“Salt and pepper shakers and forks and knives, and you know there’s credit cards and cell phones,” he said.

Vaughn said the River Authority also rescues all aquatic life they find.

San Antonio River Authority staff work to collect samples of the water.
Credit Brian Kirkpatrick | Texas Public Radio
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San Antonio River Authority staff work to collect samples of the water.

“We will physically pick it up. Put it in an aerated live well and physically relocate it, whether it's a designated relocation zone mandated by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department or just an appropriate water (source),” Vaughn said.

He added that non-native, invasive species are humanely dispatched under guidelines set by state wildlife officials.

Nefi Garza, assistant director of the city's Transportation Capital Improvements Department, said they have also found a few dozen e-scooters in the muddy bottom. He said they’ll be dried out, and companies will be notified.

"We're calling them all and saying, 'Hey, we've got a bunch of scooters here. Come and take a look. You're welcome to pick them up.' Otherwise, we're gonna give them a week or two weeks — I don't know exactly the time — but then we're to take those to the dump,” he said.

River authority biologists are also finding and removing non-native and invasive wildlife like South American apple snails, which can grow as big as a softball and leave behind thousands of eggs.

He suspects owners put them into the river when they grew too big for aquariums.

“This is a pet of yours, and you don’t want to dispose of your pet, so you go and just put it in the first freshwater source you can find, and a lot of times that is the San Antonio River,” he said.

The San Antonio River is drained, cleaned and repaired on an as-needed basis.
Credit Brian Kirkpatrick | Texas Public Radio
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The San Antonio River is drained, cleaned and repaired on an as-needed basis.

Apple snails are native to South America. Other non-natives in the River Walk area are tilapia and plecostomus.

Donavan said the plecostomus in the river were also most likely aquarium dwellers that got too big for their tanks.

City officials say they also dredge silt out of the bottom the River Walk. Once the cleaning is complete, the river will be replenished with stored flood water. 

Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at Brian@TPR.org and on Twitter at @TPRBrian.