Giant snails still terrorizing Florida despite massive expenditures

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Giant Snails Still Terrorizing Florida Despite Massive Expenditures


Four years after the first African giant snails appeared in Miami, they've spread to the suburbs and there seems to be no stopping them.

Though massive, with the largest yet recorded around seven inches long, the snails disappear underground where they stay undetected for months at a time. During the warm and wet hurricane season they rise to feed.

The ravenous gastropods can consume up to 500 different species of Floridian flora and have even been known to suck the stucco off of houses.

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Giant African Snails
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Giant snails still terrorizing Florida despite massive expenditures
FILE -In this Sept. 30, 2011 file photo, a collection of giant african land is seen in Miami. The snails can grow to eight inches and can eat 500 types of plants and cause structural damage to plaster and stucco. The Florida Department of Agriculture officials will announce their results of their two-year effort to eradicate the giant African land snail during a press availability in Miami, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter, File)
A Department of Agriculture worker holds a bag of Giant Snail Land Snails that were collected from a lawn in Miami, Friday, Sept. 30, 2011. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has identified a population of Giant African Land Snails in Miami. They are one of the most damaging snails in the world because they consume at least 500 types of plants, can cause structural damage to plaster and stucco, and can carry a parasitic nematode that can lead to meningitis in humans. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
This undated photo provided by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) shows a person using two hands to hold a single snail from an air cargo shipment of 67 live snails that arrived at Los Angeles International Airport on July 1, 2014. Officials said that the 35 pounds of snails arrived from Nigeria along with paperwork stating they were for human consumption. Officials say the snails were intercepted and they were subsequently identified after a sample was sent to U.S. Department of Agriculture specialists in Washington, D.C. (AP Photo/USDA, Greg Bartman)
This undated photo provided by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) showing an air cargo shipment of 67 live snails that arrived at Los Angeles International Airport on July 1, 2014. Officials said that the 35 pounds of snails arrived from Nigeria along with paperwork stating they were for human consumption. Officials say the snails were intercepted and they were subsequently identified after a sample was sent to U.S. Department of Agriculture specialists in Washington, D.C. (AP Photo/USDA, Greg Bartman)
This undated photo provided by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) showing one of the snails from an air cargo shipment of 67 live snails that arrived at Los Angeles International Airport on July 1, 2014. Officials said that the 35 pounds of snails arrived from Nigeria along with paperwork stating they were for human consumption. Officials say the snails were intercepted and were subsequently identified after a sample was sent to U.S. Department of Agriculture specialists in Washington, D.C. (AP Photo/USDA, Greg Bartman)
FILE -In this Sept. 30, 2011 file photo, a collection of giant african land is seen in Miami. The snails can grow to eight inches and can eat 500 types of plants and cause structural damage to plaster and stucco. The Florida Department of Agriculture officials will announce their results of their two-year effort to eradicate the giant African land snail during a press availability in Miami, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter, File)
THE MEDINA, MARRAKECH, MOROCCO - 2013/01/04: Man serving snails in his food street stall in Djemaa el Fna square. (Photo by Raquel Maria Carbonell Pagola/LightRocket via Getty Images)
DJEMAA EL FNA SQUARE, MARRAKECH, MOROCCO - 2013/01/04: People eating at a street stall serving snails. (Photo by Raquel Maria Carbonell Pagola/LightRocket via Getty Images)
DULLES, VA - JANUARY 13:Giant African snail shells that have been confiscated from a passenger in international customs at Dulles International Airport on January 13, 2012, in Dulles, VA. We take a look at some of the items confiscated by Customs and Border Protection officers as passengers come into the United States on international flights.(photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 15: Dr. Paul Skelley, Florida Department of Agriculture, looks for Giant African land snails as he works on eradicating a population of the invasive species in Miami-Dade County on September 15, 2011 in Miami, Florida. The Giant African land snail is one of the most damaging snails in the world because they consume at least 500 different types of plants, can cause structural damage to plaster and stucco, and can carry a parasitic nematode that can lead to meningitis in humans. The snail is one of the largest land snails in the world, growing up to eight inches in length and more than four inches in diameter. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 15: A Giant African land snail is seen as the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services announces it has positively identified a population of the invasive species in Miami-Dade county on September 15, 2011 in Miami, Florida. The Giant African land snail is one of the most damaging snails in the world because they consume at least 500 different types of plants, can cause structural damage to plaster and stucco, and can carry a parasitic nematode that can lead to meningitis in humans. An effort to eradicate the snails is being launched. The snail is one of the largest land snails in the world, growing up to eight inches in length and more than four inches in diameter. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Vendors wait for customers next to a snail stall on a market in Abidjan on December 13, 2010. Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Outtara both declared themselves president in the wake of last month's disputed election. Ouattara has been recognised by the international community, but Ivorian army chiefs remain loyal to Gbagbo.AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO (Photo credit should read ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY IN FRENCH BY SOPHIE MONGALVY Giant snails, igbin in Yoruba, are diplayed for sale at a market in Lagos on November 21, 2009. Prepared as a soup or as a stew dish, the snails are considered a delicacy by many Nigerians. AFP PHOTO / PIUS UTOMI EKPEI (Photo credit should read PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY IN FRENCH BY SOPHIE MONGALVY Snail dealer Yemi Ahmed shows the varieties of giant snails, igbin in Yoruba, at market in Lagos on November 21, 2009. Prepared as a soup or as a stew dish, the snails are considered a delicacy by many Nigerians. AFP PHOTO / PIUS UTOMI EKPEI (Photo credit should read PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images)
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They're also dangerous.

Many snails consume infected rat feces. This turns them into hosts for a parasitic worm which can cause meningitis in humans.

Mark Fagan, a state agriculture department spokesman, spelled it out: "They're a human and animal health threat and they're a threat to Florida's agriculture. We can't let the population continue."

But the population has continued, though not for lack of trying. So far, Florida has spent nearly $11 million to eradicate the snail; employing pesticide, molluscicide, a snail-sighting hotline and even sniffer dogs.
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