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Going on the Hunt for Leopard Slugs

This spotted creepy-crawly also known as Leopard Slug, Great
Grey Slug, and scientifically as Limax Maximus can be found
all over the United States and Europe. Although it is not
native to the United States, it migrated to North America
probably from the UK and now has spread all across the USA
as well as across most of Europe. You can find them in
woods, fields, and gardens under rocks or dead trees because
they like damp, dark places to rest from the sun, and they
are almost always near human habitation. Leopard Slugs are
nocturnal although they do come out in the day when it is

Slugs are basically snails without shells, and both are
mollusks. All slugs and snails move by excreting a special
mucus (slime trail) and pulling themselves along the slime
with their one muscular foot. If you see a thin silvery
trail across the ground or your porch you can know that a
slug or snail was there, and follow to see where it went.

Leopard Slugs are yellow/gray and spotted to help them blend
into their environment and avoid predators like hedgehogs,
snakes, frogs, toads, turtles, flies and even some humans
who find them very tasty. If a predator like a frog does eat
the slug, it will excrete an even more sticky slime than the
slime it uses to move along, and this extra sticky slime
clogs up the predator's throat and mouth making it very hard
indeed for the slug to be eaten. It is usually spat out and
avoided thereafter.

Leopard Slugs grow to as much as eight inches (twenty
centimeters) long, and their primary food is fungi such as
mushrooms and other plant matter, although they can move
fast for a slug and sometimes eat other slugs too. They live
up to three years, hiding away during the winters and
feeding and breeding from spring to fall. Slugs are all
hermaphrodites, meaning that they contain both male and
female organs, and when Leopard Slugs mate both slugs will
produce eggs. They hide from twenty to one hundred eggs in
moist, shady areas such as under mulch, flower pots, dead
leaves, or boards. The eggs are transparent or iridescent
spheres around one quarter inch in diameter, and the babies
hatch looking like tiny versions of their parents. Young
slugs take two years to reach breeding maturity.

If Leopard Slugs live in your area, you can catch your own
and have an unusual and very interesting pet. You can find
them most often under rocks, logs or debris, especially if
there is a garden nearby. Here in the Midwest USA during the
summer we can go out in the early evening and watch a slug
parade as they climb our porch steps and up to the hanging
baskets of cherry tomatoes, where they can strip entire
branches of leaves and tomatoes in one night.

Before you go Leopard Slug hunting you will need to prepare.
Wear gloves so that if you have to pick up a slug you won't
get slimed, but make sure that the gloves don't have any
chemicals on them; get a new pair of kitchen gloves and
rinse them well to remove any substance left from the
manufacturing process. Have a home already prepared for your
slug, and take a clean container such as a quart jar to use
to carry your new pet home. You might also want to take
along a flashlight if your slug hunt is late in the evening.

Now go slug hunting. Go to a garden or woods and look in the
leaf litter or under fallen branches, and when you find one
either pluck it off whatever it is clinging to and pop it
into your jar or if it is eating, pick the fruit or
vegetable that the slug is on and put both in your
container. If you live in snake country, be sure to make
plenty of noise before you turn over any branches or disturb
the leaf litter, and try doing the turning with a long stick
rather than your hands. If a snake is present it likely will
run for the hills when it hears you coming, but it might
stay curled up under its hiding place until you frighten it,
at which point it could strike you.

For your slug's home you will need a small aquarium with
some gravel lining the bottom. You should also get your slug
some aquarium furniture, plants, sticks and other things to
decorate the tank and for your slug to climb on. Prepare
some distilled water in a spray bottle so that you can mist
the tank every day to provide drinking water for your pet.

You will also need to feed your slug every day, just give it
a small quantity of a variety of vegetables and fruits that
have been well rinsed. It is very important that the slug
does not come into contact with any chemicals, otherwise it
will likely die. Don't handle your slug often; try not to
pick it up at all. Slugs are amazing in many ways, and
interesting to watch, but they are somewhat fragile. Also
make sure that your aquarium has a tight lid and very small
ventilation holes so that your slug will not escape. If it
does happen to escape, just follow the slime trail.

If you can, also put some moss from the leopard slug's
natural environment in the tank because moss is good for
holding water so that the slug can drink throughout the day.
It is very important that you watch your slug's tank and see
to it that if the food your give it starts to mold or go bad
you remove it from the tank and replace it with fresh food.
You do not want to leave mold or bacteria in your tank, it
will begin to smell bad and it could kill your Leopard Slug.

Leopard Slugs live a long while for a small creature, and it
will slime its way up and down and around your tank for up
to three years. They can climb the walls literally and when
they do you can see their undersides, their one long foot,
and watch them explore. Kids really enjoy slugs as pets
because of their ickiness. Don't tap on the glass or
otherwise harass the slug, it's not good for them. But if
you follow these simple instructions you can have a
fascinating and unusual pet, and freak out your friends with
your "space-alien-looking" pet.

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