MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The war against the giant African Land Snail continues across South Florida, the the generals directing the battle say the enemy is being hunted down and captured, thanks to help from the public.
The Florida Department of Agriculture’s Division of Plant Industry, which is leading the fight, said Saturday that tips from the public have identified 5 main areas where the large, invasive snails can be found, all of them in central and south-central Miami-Dade.
Spokesperson Mark Fagan said in a statement that thousands of the snails have been collected since the problem was identified and the state asked for the public’s help.
The large snail is a problem because it has no natural enemies in the US, and as one of the most damaging snails in the world, it is known to cause damage to over 500 varieties of plant. They are also considered a health risk to humans because they can carry parasites.
The state is trying to control them by contacting landscapers to educate them about the snails, and to have them sign procedures for transporting yard waste that might contain the snails.
The last reported outbreak and eradication of the Giant African land snail in Florida occurred in 1966 when a boy smuggled three Giant African land snails into Miami as pets. The boy’s grandmother released the snails into her garden and seven years later, more than 18,000 snails were found costing more than $1 million and taking an additional 10 years to successfully eradicate this pest from Florida. This is the only known successful giant African land snail eradication program.
It’s not known how the latest outbreak started, but it’s illegal to being the snails into the US without a permit. Each snail can live as long as 9 years, and produce as many as as 12 hundred eggs a year. They can grow to be 8 inches long and 4 inches around, much larger than your average snail.
The state is collecting snails when they are found, and is working through a program to use a bait called Sluggo to kill the snails. That bait is said to be harmless to people and pets, but lights out for slugs.
Anyone who believes they may have seen a Giant African land snail or signs of its presence should call the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services toll-free at 888-397-1517 to make arrangements to have the snail collected.
To preserve the snail sample, Floridians should use gloves to put the snail in a zip lock bag, seal it and place it in a bucket or plastic container.