NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. (WFLA) — State officials are still working to eradicate a giant invasive snail from Pasco County, reporting a large increase in the amount of snails found in the last week.

Now, the state’s latest count hit 3,000, according to an announcement from the Florida Department of Agriculture. The snail eradication effort, led by the Division of Plant Industry, has been working to remove the giant snails, also called GALS, since the end of June.

“The reason for that rapid increase is because we’re surveying previously positive properties,” said Jason Stanley, a Nematologist with the Florida Department of Agriculture.

So far, FDACS said over 600 properties had been searched for the creatures, though the process itself is already expected to go at a snail’s pace, taking years to finish.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said in a media briefing that the state remained confident that the snails could be removed. At the time of the rat lungworm comparison, the snail collection count from the state was just under 2,000 of the invasive and destructive mollusks, known for eating more than 500 agricultural crops and even plaster and stucco.

Stanley said state crews are facing a number of issues trying to eradicate the invasive snail including debris and long grass.

“One of the biggest challenges right now is debris and some of these yards have a lot of waste on them,” Stanley said. “Some of the yards are not mowed, so that’s one of our biggest challenges right now is debris. We’re actually bringing in a debris team to actually help as well but if they could do some of the work it would help tremendously.”

Another issue is that the snails can reproduce very fast.

“They can lay up to 2,000 eggs per year,” Stanley added. “The other issue is they don’t have to mate, they are hermaphroditic, so a single snail can lay eggs without reproducing so they lay a lot of eggs and they reproduce fast.”

The Department of Agriculture has already warned residents not to eat, or even touch, the snails, which can grow up to eight inches long.

The update from FDACS said the quarantine zone set up in June, after the snails were detected, had not been expanded, nor had the treatment zone. A nematologist working for the department said on July 15, when the parasites were confirmed, that the treatment zone’s 200 meter core had stayed the same size as when the quarantine was set up. Going forward, FDACS said updates on the snails in Pasco County will come weekly.

The next update is expected Friday, according to a representative from the Division of Plant Industry. Those who see a snail they think might be one of the damaging critters are encouraged to call the FDACS-DPI Hotline number at 1-888-397-1517.