Invasive, giant snail sighting forces South Florida county into quarantine

Residents can leave their homes, but if they find one of these snails, there’s a few precautions in place

Scientist Mary Yong Cong holds one of the Giant African Snails she keeps in her lab in Miami, Florida on July 17, 2015. (Photo credit should read KERRY SHERIDAN/AFP via Getty Images) (KERRY SHERIDAN, Getty Images)

NEW PORT RICHEY, Florida – One of the most damaging snails in the world was recently spotted in a Florida city, forcing a quarantine in part of the city, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

A giant African land snail was found by a master gardener on June 23 in the New Port Richey area, FDACS said.

Although snails may seem harmless, these crawly creatures can pose a serious health risk to humans, as they carry the parasite rat lungworm, which can cause meningitis.

And, they can grow up to 8 inches long, or about the size of a standard coffee mug.

The FDACS said the snails also consume at least 500 different types of plants, posing a threat to Florida’s natural areas.

The quarantine area spans nearly six miles and it doesn’t prohibit residents themselves from traveling, but it does prohibit any movement of plants, soil, compost or yard waste in the area without permission from the Florida Department of Agriculture.

The FDACS’s Division of Plant Industry has already started treating the area with metaldehyde-based molluscicide, or snail bait.

This isn’t the first time these snails have been found in Florida. According to the FDACS, they’ve been eradicated twice before. This is the third time they’ve become reacquainted with the state.

Residents who think they have found one of the snails should not touch them without gloves due to the meningitis risk. They’re also urged to contact the FDACS hotline at 1-888-397-1517.

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About the Author:

Cody King is a digital journalist for KSAT 12. She previously worked for WICS/WRSP 20 in Springfield, Illinois.