State steps up battle against giant African snails

By Roger Lohse, Reporter, rlohse@Local10.com
Published On: Jan 05 2012 05:59:32 PM EST
Updated On: Jan 06 2012 10:40:37 AM EST

Inspectors have rounded up 33,000 of the invasive, bacteria-carrying giant African land snails in Miami-Dade County since October, and now the state is increasing its efforts to get rid of the creatures.

MIAMI -

The battle against the giant African land snail is intensifying in Miami-Dade County, where tens of thousands of the menacing slugs have been captured since the outbreak was first announced four months ago.

Since then, a temporary team of state inspectors has rounded up 33,000 snails. 

“They found the big one back in there," said one homeowner who welcomed inspectors into his yard Thursday. 

The shelled slugs carry dangerous bacteria and a parasite that can cause meningitis. But mostly they destroy plants and native snail species and leave a destructive, slimy path on property.  It's also to illegal keep them as pets. 

"Well, it's a perfect environment for them here in South Florida," said state entomologist Dr. Ian Stocks.

Stocks said the snails are now thriving in 14 areas in Miami-Dade, and the state is bolstering its response. A team of 40 inspectors and scientists will soon be permanently assigned to South Florida. Their mission will be to eradicate the menacing mollusks from Miami-Dade. 

It's not too difficult to identify a giant African snail. The lines on their shells run vertically from tip to tip, instead of spiraling around the shell, like most native species. 

The snails reproduce much faster than they move. One snail can lay as many as 1,200 eggs a year.  But state agriculture officials said they're committed to running this snail species out of South Florida one shell at a time. 

"With the cooperation of residents of South Florida, we feel we can get rid of this," Stocks said.

Homeowners who think they may have giant African land snails on their property are encourage to call the state's helpline at 888-397-1517.

For more information on giant African land snails, click here.

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