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Banana Slugs: Favorite Creatures of Northern California's Redwood Forests

By Edited Sep 16, 2016 3 5
Banana Slugs
Credit: Public domain photo.

Some banana slugs are solid yellow, others have black spots. All are huge and slimy.[1]

Dedicated to my favorite gastropods

When I was seven to nine years old, encompassing most of my second grade year and all of third grade, I lived in Northern California. It was in places such as Muir Woods National Monument that I became acquainted with my favorite gastropods, the banana slugs.

This article is dedicated to sharing some stories and information about these simultaneously weird, gross, interesting, and funny creatures.

Spotted Banana Slug
Credit: Wikimedia Commons photo by Roisterer, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Photo demonstrating that some of these animals have black spots rather than being only solid yellow.[1]

Facts about banana slugs

Technically there are three species. They are all yellow or yellowish, and some have dark spots like a very ripe banana. They are all rather large as well, with the largest near 10 inches (25 cm) in length.[1]

The largest land slug of all lives in Europe and reaches up to 12 inches (30 cm). It is called the black keelback slug or the ash-black slug.[2]

The banana slugs I’ve seen in forests near the coasts of central to northern California have typically been around four to six inches in length, and rarely much larger. They are fat and very much resemble bananas.

Slugs move slowly. They can travel 6.5 inches (17 cm) in one minute. This computes to 0.006 miles or 32.5 feet in an hour (0.01 km or 9.9 meters per hour), if they were to maintain the pace for that long. Without stopping or slowing down, they’d cover one mile (1.6 km) in nearly one solid week.[1]

Slugs are covered with mucous, which protects them and aids in preventing moisture loss. When it gets too dry, they cover themselves with dirt and leaves and stay where they are until it’s moist again. They need to be in moist areas, such as the cool damp coastal redwood forests of Northern California.[1]

A few groups of banana slugs live in some other places, such as in part of San Diego County, and in some parts of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Mostly they are found from the area near Monterey Bay and Santa Cruz, northward along the coast through British Columbia and into the southeast extension of Alaska.[1]

They mainly eat dead leaves and droppings of other animals on the ground. They are an important part of the ecosystems in which they live.[1]

University of California Santa Cruz has the banana slug as its mascot.[3]

Raccoons, garter snakes, ducks, geese, salamanders, shrews, and moles eat these slugs.[1]

Every year a contest is held in the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County to come up with recipes using them. The slugs don’t taste very good, so the winner is usually whomever can make their taste unnoticeable.[1]

Banana slugs story #1

The contest at the Boys & Girls Club in Sonoma, California

When I lived in the town of Sonoma from 1986 to 1988, my parents sometimes dropped me and my sister off at a club where they have games and many activities for kids, called the Boys & Girls Club.

One time they held a contest where they brought banana slugs, and dared people (adults too, not just kids) to lick one, or to put one in their mouth, slimy mucous and all.

People who licked the big fat yellow slugs were given five dollars. Anyone who put one completely in their mouth was awarded twenty dollars. Needless to say, no one in my family got any money that day.

Banana slugs story #2

The time my dad stepped on a banana slug

During the 1990s, after we had moved to Southern California, we went back to Northern California on vacations numerous times. One time we visited Fort Bragg, a coastal town, and we intended to eat lunch at a particular beach.

After parking, we were walking through a meadow with long green grass, and there were banana slugs everywhere in the grass. We were following a narrow trail to the beach, and a log lay across the trail.

My dad loudly said to all of us, “Watch your step, be careful not to step on any banana slugs!” Immediately after saying this, he stepped over the log and his size-13 sandal landed directly on a huge slug, completely squashing it onto the underside of his sandal.

We laughed hysterically and still laugh about it whenever anyone brings it up.

When we got to the beach, it was covered with small purple jellyfishes, which we thought could be venomous, so we had to turn around, walk back through the meadow to our car, and find somewhere else to eat. So the poor slug was squashed for no good reason at all.

Banana slugs live in the giant redwood forests

Giant Coastal Redwood
Credit: Public domain.

This is in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. Gives you an idea of how large around these trees can get. The tallest one known is 380 feet (116 meters) tall! They are the world's tallest trees and grow along the western coast of North America from the middle of California to the southwest corner of Oregon.[4]

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Comments

Feb 21, 2015 4:48pm
RoseWrites
Yuk, but I like how you write about them.
Feb 21, 2015 7:18pm
TanoCalvenoa
They are tolerable if you are merely observing them, and not necessarily grabbing them (or worse).
Feb 21, 2015 5:40pm
HLesley
We have banana slugs up on the Canadian Pacific coast as well. I think they're totally gross, but I heard that the native people used to eat them - escargot minus the shell, not that I would ever eat escargot either!

BTW, did any of the kids at the Boys and Girls club accept the dare?

Feb 21, 2015 7:17pm
TanoCalvenoa
Natives ate them? Never heard that. How funny. And yes, some people did accept the dare and got $5 or $20. Just nobody in my family was willing to do it.
Mar 21, 2015 6:52am
LeighGoessl
Great stories and interesting information. I have only seen the beige type, slugs are icky, but the yellow ones you show are kind of pretty.

I definitely would not have made any money either!
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Bibliography

  1. "Banana slug." Wikipedia. 21/02/2015 <Web >
  2. "Limax Cinereoniger." Wikipedia. 21/02/2015 <Web >
  3. "Banana Slug Mascot." UCSC. 21/02/2015 <Web >
  4. "Sequoia semperivirens." Wikipedia. 21/02/2015 <Web >

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