Thousands of Giant African Land Snails Have Been Captured in South Florida
Officials said 33,000 snails have been caught so far
Authorities are hunting exotic snails that can be human killers.
Florida agriculture officials say they've captured more than 33,000 giant African land snails since the invasive species was discovered in Miami-Dade County in September.
Officials said Tuesday that most were collected after homeowners called the Florida Department of Agriculture Division of Plant Industry's hotline.
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. They 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," resident Jason Tesser had said. "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," said Mark Fagan, spokesperson for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Some 17,000 snails were collected over a nine-year eradication program in the 1960s. That cost $1 million and is the only successful giant African land snail eradication program to date.
The state and federal departments of agriculture have as many as 200 employees assigned to snail eradication efforts. The hotline is 888-397-1517.
Copyright Associated Press / NBC 6 South Florida