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Giant African Land Snails

It sounds like the basis of a badly made sci-fi flick, doesn’t it?  Giant snails invading an area, doing damage to everything in its wake, and in the mind of a writer, turning humans into zombies.  Although zombies are outside the realm of possibility, the damage these snails can do is very real.

In case you’ve missed the stories, giant snails have invaded Florida.  They are considered a threat to humans.  In fact, when captured, they are kept in securely locked labs. Of course, any escape would be very slow, but they are so dangerous that scientists still take precautions.

Snail Facts:

* These snails can grow to eight inches long and generally fill an adult human hand. Most snails found in Florida are 3-4 inches long because they haven’t reached adulthood yet.

* They are smelly. This is because they leave a slimy trail of excrement behind as they move along.

* They eat 500 different species of plants, which pretty much everything grown in Florida.

* They can chew the stucco and plaster right off your house.

* They can transmit meningitis to humans.

* They lay anywhere between 100 to 300 eggs per month. One snail can lay eggs and fertilize them at the same time as they are hermaphrodites.

One theory is that they were smuggled into Florida for religious purposes. Practitioners of Ifa Orisha use these snails to see the future and it’s also reported they drink the snail juice (even if you’re tempted, please don’t try to consume any part of the snail – it will make you sick).

To help combat these snails, Florida has engaged the services of snail-tracking dogs and employed more than 50 specially trained snail-hunters.  Once caught, these snails are usually frozen to death.  The most recently infected area is the Miami-Dade area.  Efforts to contain the snails have been relatively successful and current sightings outside of the Miami area are rare.

If you happen to see a giant snail, it’s extremely important not to touch it with your bare hands.  And it’s important not to let pets touch them either.  They can carry a parasite that is known to be infected with the meningitis virus.  This virus can then transmit to humans or other animals that touch it.  One snail-tracking dog did touch a snail and as a result of meningitis, is now deaf and blind.

What you should do is to glove up your hands, place the snail in a zip-top bag and place in a bucket or large container.  Local officials hope to completely eradicate the snails within a year or two.  However, that only works if illegal entry is completely stopped.

If you happen to see a giant snail, it’s important to contact the Florida Department of Agriculture at 888-397-1517 as soon as possible!

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