Thursday, July 27, 2017 This Week's Paper

Banana slugs rule! (No, really, they’re kind of cool)

Hey! Stop salting those slugs, you sickos! And knock it off with the garden beer traps while you're at it; IPAs are meant for drinkin', not drowning gullible, slow-moving critters.

The Northwest's slimiest inhabitants have gotten a bad rap; and this weekend Northwest Trek aims to rehabilitate the little guys' image during its 30th annual Slug Fest, two days of family friendly activity that will take over the local wildlife park, which is located at 11610 Clay City Rd. in Eatonville.

“It was just kind of a fun celebration of a creature that a lot of people don't normally think about,” said Northwest Trek spokeswoman Kris Sherman. “It started in 1982, and then kind of officially became a festival in 1983. Back then they actually had slug races with real slugs. They had a huge board that they created, a little slug race track called Slime Acres. They had a little grandstand for the slugs and a lounge, and weigh-ins.”

These days, the “slugs” are a lot bigger – people-sized, to be exact. “Over the years we evolved from using animals to having humans do the races,” Sherman said. “They don't take as long, and it's better for the animals not to ask them to race.”

Participants wrap themselves in tarps and squirm their way down what amounts to a giant, soapy Slip 'n Slide, no hands allowed. Races are open to ages 5 and up with start times at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 and 3 p.m.

There will also be a 50-foot-long slug replica that families can tour and naturalists on hand to talk about the star du jour, Ariolimax columbianus, a.k.a. the Pacific bandana slug, a brightly colored species found crawling along West Coast forest floors, from Alaska to California.

Yeah! Slugs! And just to get you pumped up for this weekend, Tacoma Weekly has compiled a few fascinating facts out this massively misunderstood mollusk:

The Banana Slug is the second largest slug and can reach a length of 25 cm.

The name, of course, comes from the slug's bright yellow coloring and its resemblance to a banana. But they can be found with green, brown, or white bodies, and their coloration can change based on their diet and the amount of moisture in their environment.

They use a muscular foot for locomotion and can reach lightning speeds of 6 ½ inches per minute.

They're detritivores, or decomposers, which means they munch on leaves, animal waste and dead plant material and turn it into soil humus. They also have a thing for mushrooms and spread seeds and spores as they eat.

Slugs are hermaphrodites and reproduce by exchanging sperm with their mate. They produce up to 75 translucent eggs, which are laid in logs or on leaves.

They usually live one to three years, but some can live up to seven. (But when you move that slow, it probably feels more like 70.)

The second coolest college mollusk mascot in the country is the fighting banana slug of University of California Santa Cruz. You probably won't see it in the Final Four any time soon, but look closely and you'll see the logo on John Travolta's T-shirt in “Pulp Fiction.” The coolest mollusk mascot? Evergreen State University Geoduck. Duh!

30th annual Slug Fest

  • 9:30 a.m. To 5 p.m., June 22 and 23 Northwest Trek, 11610 Clay City Rd., Eatonville

  • $19.75 adult general admission ($18.25 seniors, $12.25 youth, ages 5 to 12, $9.25 kids ages 3 and 4, free for infants age 2 and younger)

  • (360) 832-6117 or