Florida officials say they're winning the fight against the Giant African Land Snail.
Since making their first appeared in 2011, the state has vanquished nearly 130,000 of the pesky snails, which eat not only 500 kinds of shrubbery and produce, but also stucco — an essential building material for Florida homes and offices.
"It is costing us millions of dollars in eradication so that we can prevent its spread," said Adam Putnam, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services commissioner.
The program consists of 50 members working exclusively to eradicate the Giant African Land Snail, said program director Bill Torres.
FDACS said its success in snail capture is due largely to alert property owners who have helped to find about 85 percent of the new captures.
Among those on the frontline battling this plague are the canine detectors, who sniff out the mollusks for their human partners.
A specially-trained dog named Bear from the U.S. Department of Agriculture goes out each week to find hundreds of snails in Miami-Dade, far fewer than last year. Even given that success, it could be many more years before the snail population is stamped out.
"We cannot declare this pest eradicated until two years after the last specimen is found," Putnam said.
In addition to destroying buildings and crops, the giant snails can carry a parasite that causes a form of meningitis. Adult snails lay about 1200 eggs a year and can live up to 9 years.
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