Over 1,000 giant African land snails captured in Pasco County so far

Past eradication efforts show the fight to remove these invasive mollusks may not be easy

click to enlarge Over 1,000 giant African land snails captured in Pasco County so far (4)
Photo via Florida Department of Agriculture
After treatment began over a week ago, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) confirmed the collection of over 1,000 giant African land snails (GALS) in Pasco County.

In a media briefing yesterday, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and the FDACS' Division of Plant Industry (DPI) addressed the issue.

“Let me assure you, we will eradicate these snails," Fried said to the press. "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.”

During the briefing, FDACS confirmed that 1,016 of the snails, which can grow up to 8-inches long, have been collected from 29 properties within the quarantined area, which starts "at the northwest corner of U.S. Highway 19 and Ridge Road. Proceed east on Ridge Road, south on Little Road, west on Trouble Creek Road, north on U.S. Highway 19."

First spotted by a home owner near New Port Richey on June 21, FDACS prompted the quarantine of Pasco County's southwestern corner to keep the snails from spreading—who are known to consume over 500 varieties of plants, stucco and paint on the foundation of homes, and carry a parasite that causes meningitis in humans.
click to enlarge Over 1,000 giant African land snails captured in Pasco County so far
Photo via fdacs.gov

Despite optimism from FDACS, the past sets a less promising precedent.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), GALS were identified in southern Florida once in the 1969, eradicated in 1975, and again in 2011, eradicated in 2021. — both times, it took millions of dollars to address the issue.

Illegal to buy or possess in the U.S., it's still unclear how these invasive mollusks keep finding their way to the Sunshine State.

According to Greg Hodges, DPI Assistant Director, this round of snails' white color are indicative of coming from Europe, as they have been "intercepted here in Florida previously with the illegal pet trade."

For now, Hodges added that the eradication effort will require collaboration between FDACS, the USDA, University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Pasco County,  the city of New Port Richey and "most importantly, the homeowners."

Near the end of the press conference, Fried urged "Please, if you see one of these snails, do not touch it... And most importantly do not eat them. This is not a snail to be put on butter, oil and garlic.

"This is going to be something that we need the community's involvement in. We can only do our job if we've been alerted to finding these snails. So please make sure that you're vigilant."

Authorities urge that if one of these snails are found, contact the Florida Department of Agriculture's Division of Plant Industry Helpline at 1-888-397-1517.
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