NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. - The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) is trying to take swift action to eradicate Giant African land snails after one was found in an area in Pasco County. The invasive species can cause extensive damage to soil and plants and pose serious health risks to humans, including causing meningitis.
Giant African land snails can range in size from a few inches to up to 8 inches long. Jay Pasqua, who owns East Richey Lawn Mower & Equipment, has seen dozens of them.
"A lot of times I'll see a few in the morning and as the afternoon progresses I'll see more. I can see anywhere from six to maybe 30 a day," Pasqua said.
The FDACS first reported finding a Giant African land snail on June 23 in an area near Massachusetts Avenue and Rowan Road in Pasco County. Since then, the area has been under quarantine meaning residents aren't allowed to move any soil, plants, yard waste or compost piles.
Pasqua's business sits right in the middle of the quarantined area. While FOX 13 crews were there, they spotted what appeared to be two Giant African land snails in Pasqua's parking lot.
"They eat stucco and paint, which I was totally taken back. I started looking all over my building like, I can't believe a snail would do that. And no sooner than that happened the next day, I found half a dozen snails. Right. I saw on the other side of the fence and one of them actually they measured was six inches long," Pasqua said.
Pasqua says officials with the FDACS have been out to the area on multiple occasions, including Wednesday afternoon, when he says they collected and disposed of more than 40 snails. According to the FDACS website, they've been treating the land with a metaldehyde-based molluscicide otherwise known as snail bait. FDACS warns residents who find the snails not to touch them and to report them by calling the FDACS hotline at 1-888-397-1517.
The snails can cause significant damage to tropical environments and pose a serious health risk to humans by carrying the parasite rat lungworm known to cause meningitis.
"It is very important that they get them out of here, number one, for health reasons and the diseases that they carry. Number two, they're damaging to buildings. They're damaging the vegetation," Pasqua said.
LINK: Click here for more information on how to differentiate them from native snails.