Canada has its share of wildlife, and we do on the west coast, too. Cougars? Yup. Bears? Yes; quite a few actually. Raccoons, wolves, martins, squirrels, bald eagles, whales...and lots of smaller furry, feathery, scaly, squirmy creatures. But one of my favourites is an animal that (1) grosses many people out, or (2) one people ignore altogether. We have large slugs here. Big banana slugs that can grow to about 20 cm. The banana slug is not the only native species of slug, but it's the most memorable. Maybe you've seen one:
Slugs are an important part of the rainforest; they're like the garbage collectors, eating dead and decaying vegetation as well as animals and, uh, even more unsavory "deposits." And there are a lot of them. Scientists measure animals in ecosystems by biomass. That's the total weight of all of that species within the system. The animal with the highest biomass in the coastal rainforest is not the bear or wolf or cougar or other big predators. It's the banana slug. Now think about that for a moment. A bear is pretty big and heavy. How many banana slugs would weigh as much as one bear? There's a lot of them. Maybe you'll see one if you come to visit?
Here on the coast, banana slugs can also inspire art. I was thinking of them the other day as I was dusting (a VERY rare occurrence, let me assure you) because I found myself rearranging these on my mantel:
Aren't those fabulous? My younger daughter made them during some of her art classes with local potter Cathy White. (Look for a longer post on Cathy's work next week.) And then there's this beauty, that was a gift from my brother a few years ago:
It comes from the Mayne Island Glass Foundry.
And, Marion Syme, from Clayoquot Eclectic also finds inspiration in slugs. Her art cards, t-shirts and bags with west coast wildlife and plants (real and imagined — her mermaids are my favourite) are available in town. (More on Marion soon, too.)