They’re big, they’re slimy,
they carry disease and they’re eating their way through South Florida.
That’s the word from the Miami-Dade area where concerns about the Giant African Land Snail, or GALS for short, has been high for about the last three years. The “epidemic” that began in 2011 is showing no signs of abating and state agriculture workers are on the job 24/7 trying to get ahead of the population explosion, Fusion.net reported.
"They eat 500 different plants, including everything we grow in Florida as a source of food," Mark Fagan of the agriculture department told Fusion. "In addition to that, they're a human and animal threat, because they carry a parasitic nematode that could cause meningitis."
The creatures can grow up to 8 inches in length and have also been known to eat through building material. So far, Fagan’s team has captured nearly 140,000 of the snails and is studying them in an effort to learn how best to combat them.
That team now has a new weapon in its arsenal. It’s using specially trained canines to sniff out the giant pests, WSVN.com reported.
"These particular dogs can go past our common and native smells and go right to a giant African land snail," Fagan told WSVN.
Fagan's team, including the canines, was on the hunt for snails in Miami's Little Haiti area July 1.
As of now, the snail epidemic is contained to South Florida and the hope is to make sure these invasive creatures go no farther. Officials are also treating areas where snails are found with poisonous bait meant to stop their ability to reproduce. The slimy critters can live up to 9 years and produce “anywhere from 100 to 300 snails per month, beginning at six months of age,” Fagan said.
Florida residents who spot the giant pests in their yards are advised to call the department of agriculture.