Giant Invasive Snails Spreading Through Miami-Dade

At least 7,000 Giant African land snails have been located in parts of Miami since discovered September 8th

By Mary Beth Wilson, Hank Tester, and Lisa Orkin Emmanuel
|  Friday, Sep 30, 2011  |  Updated 4:24 PM EDT
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Giant African Snails Invade Coral Gables

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People are advised not to touch the snails, but if they do they should wear gloves

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Giant African Snails Invade Coral Gables

Authorities are hunting exotic snails that can be human killers.
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State and federal agricultural inspectors continue to survey the Giant African land snail infestation in Miami-Dade County that was discovered September 8th.

"In less than a two-week period, we have come up with at least 7,000 [Giant] African land snails," said Mark Fagan, spokesperson for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Fagan said that as a result of the public's cooperation reporting snail sightings to a helpline number, many areas around central and south central Miami-Dade County have been identified.

"We need the public help," Fagan said. "The other areas came to us when they called our number."

The snails have spread from the original infestation in Coral Gables to the northwest quadrant of the City of Miami, the southwest corner of the City of Miami, Hialeah, and Kendall Hammocks.

The Giant African species is one of the largest of snails in the world. They grow up to eight inches in length and more than four inches in width with a lifespan around nine years.

The snails consume about 500 different kinds of plants, and they can cause damage to plaster and stucco. They also carry a parasitic worm that can lead to meningitis in humans.
 
"They populate at an incredible rate. Exponential is an understatement, from two to 2000, that's an exaggeration, but it felt like that," said resident Jason Tesser. "There are hundreds of them in backyard."
 
The public is advised not to touch the snails, and to contact officials for removal of them.
 
"People should only pick them up with gloves. If they do come in contact, they should thoroughly wash their hands," Fagan said.
 
"We will continue to spread out and search, as well as do the mechanical collecting by hand."
 
The public is urged to call the toll-free helpline number (888) 397-1517 and to visit the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to learn more about these invasive pests.

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