Over 1,000 invasive, giant snails captured in South Florida county under quarantine, officials say

Twenty nine properties have come up positive for the snails so far in the New Port Richey area

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 – More than 1,000 giant African land snails have been captured so far after a South Florida county was forced into quarantine since their emergence, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

This is the third time these invasive snails have been spotted in Florida after a master gardener found one on June 23 in the New Port Richey area. Since that discovery, 29 properties total have come up positive for these slimy creatures.

Still, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said Thursday afternoon during a press conference that the county will put an end to the snail outbreak, just as it has in the past.

“Let me assure you, we will eradicate these snails. We have done it twice before, and we will do it again – it is not a question of if, but when. Together, let’s locate, communicate, and eradicate, so Florida can again be GALS free,” Fried said during a news conference.

Although snails may seem harmless, this particular species is among the most damaging snails in the world, and they pose a serious health risk to humans, as they carry the parasite rat lungworm, which can cause meningitis.

The snails can grow up to eight 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 is still working to eradicate the snails, which could take at least two years. They’re currently treating the affected properties with metaldehyde-based molluscicide, or snail bait.

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.