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An outstretched hand holding a dozen mussels marked with id numbers
Information icon Carolina heelsplitters ready to be stocked. Photo by FWS.

Private landowners step up to save the Carolina Heelsplitter

An older gentleman and a boy, each showing off an endangered mussel in their hand
Ellison McDow and his grandfather Donnie Evans displaying Carolina heelsplitters that will soon be released on Mr. Evan’s property. Photo by FWS.

South Carolina, like many states in the Southeast Region, is mostly made up of private lands. Therefore, these lands and their owners are crucial to any effort aimed at recovery of endangered species. Last fall, a number of private entities voluntarily contributed to the ongoing recovery efforts for the critically endangered Carolina heelsplitter, a freshwater mussel.

Successful propagation efforts for the heelsplitter at Orangeburg National Fish Hatchery had produced nearly 700 individuals that needed homes in streams with existing suitable habitat. These young heelsplitters had been raised from brood stock taken from the Pee Dee and Catawba River Basins, so the Service investigated land ownership within these areas. Fairly quickly, three private landowners (one industrial, one private citizen and one non-profit) happily agreed to allow young heelsplitters to be placed on their property.

Not only did these landowners provide valuable access to their land, they also contributed personal labor and media resources to get the job done. Three hundred heelsplitters were placed in Gills Creek (Catawba Basin) and nearly 400 in Flat Creek (Pee Dee Basin), both in Lancaster County, South Carolina. Everybody involved is excited to chart the success of these efforts and watch the little heelspitters grow.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on our work and the people who can make it happen, visit Connect with the Service on Facebook, follow our tweets, watch the YouTube Channel and download photos from Flickr.

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