TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — In the latest on the Giant African Land Snail invasion and purge effort in Pasco County, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services confirmed that the snails had the rat lungworm parasite, which can cause meningitis in pets and humans.
Now, the state’s latest count hit 3,000, according to a new announcement from the Florida Dept. 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.
“We are so lucky to have an experienced team ready to prevent, detect, and treat invasive threats,” Fried said at a previous Clearwater briefing. “Let me assure you, we will eradicate these snails. 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.”
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.
Now, Fried has published a recorded briefing as a status update. The video briefing was shared on various social media sites by FDACS.
“As we all know by now, Giant African Land Snails have been reintroduced into our state,” Fried said in the video. “One of the ways we gauge our progress is by observing the sizes of the quarantine and treatment areas. If they remain the same, the population is isolated.”
The Department of Agriculture has already warned residents not to eat, or even touch, the snails, which can grow up to eight inches long and lay thousands of eggs.
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.