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Black Labs Graduate Giant African Snail Sniffing School

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Michael Sabato, environmental specialist; Omar Garcia, environmental specialist, with Raider; Bryan Benson, environmental manager; Jodi Daugherty, U.S. Department of Agriculture; and Larry Bynum, environmental specialist, with Bear.  (Source: Florida Department of Agriculture)

Michael Sabato, environmental specialist; Omar Garcia, environmental specialist, with Raider; Bryan Benson, environmental manager; Jodi Daugherty, U.S. Department of Agriculture; and Larry Bynum, environmental specialist, with Bear. (Source: Florida Department of Agriculture)

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A couple of new defenses against the Giant African Land Snails that have taken over parts of Miami will be sniffing out the invasive creatures.

Raider poses with his graduation cap. (Source: Florida Department of Agriculture)

Raider poses with his graduation cap. (Source: Florida Department of Agriculture)

Black labs Raider and Bear just graduated from the Department of Agriculture Detector Dog Training Facility after a 10-week training period.

They spent four weeks at the U.S.D.A. training facility and had six weeks of on-the-job training in Miami-Dade County.

“I would like to congratulate the new members of our team, Raider and Bear,” said Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam in a press release. “The work of these trained dogs and their handlers will greatly enhance our eradication efforts and ensure that these destructive snails do not spread across the state.”

The snails, known as GALS, are native to Africa and were first found in Florida in 2011.

So far, more than 140,000 snails have been eliminated with the help of dog detector teams, snail bait, traps and modification of habitats, among other control efforts.

Residents who believe they have found a snail should call the department’s toll-free helpline: 888-397-1517.

Scientists consider GALS to be one of the most damaging snails in the world because they are known to consume at least 500 different types of plants. The snails can also cause structural damage to buildings; they consume plaster and stucco to acquire the calcium needed by the snails to grow their large shells. In large numbers, GALS can cause extensive damage.

Giant African Land Snail (CBS4)

Giant African Land Snail (CBS4)

The GALS are also a public health concern because they can carry a parasite that causes meningitis in humans and animals.

Originally from East Africa, the Giant African Land Snail, Achatina fulica, is one of the largest land snails in the world, growing up to 8 inches in length. Each snail can live as long as 9 years. In a typical year, an adult can produce about 1,200 eggs.

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