Recently a guest approached me, seeking my opinion about something they had seen in one of the dredge ponds. From a distance it appeared to be a short snake (or a long worm) writhing and undulating in the water. Upon closer inspection (with the help of a handy dandy stick) it was found to be a leech: the first to be discovered in the park to our knowledge.
Much like bats, snakes, spiders and the like: leeches have a slightly disproportionate stereotype as scary and/or monstrous. While some species of leeches do suck blood (I wasn’t about to test my luck with this fella) many leeches feed on plants, insects, snails, and decaying material. Like any other creature, Leeches play a role in a given habitat: perhaps this leech is of the predatory variety, helping to keep the number of mosquitoes in check.
Leeches are able to tolerate high amounts of pollution in their water and where prevalent can be an indicator of poor water quality. So far only one leech has been spotted in the park but if many appear, it may mean that the quality of water is degrading. They prefer slow moving water and since the flow rate of the dredge ponds are pretty low it’s a prime place for leeches to thrive.
They also happen to be really good parents, caring for their young in a manner similar to birds and mammals. Just because we don’t understand something doesn’t mean we should be frightened of it or assume it is evil. They are just trying to make it in this world like you and I!