NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. (WFLA) — It’s been nearly a month since an invasive species of giant snail was first detected in Pasco County, and the Florida Department of Agriculture has collected nearly 2,000 of the destructive creatures. The third snail purge in Florida continues.
FDACS said that, as of July 20, they’ve collected 1,963 of the Giant African Land Snails, a species known for eating more than 500 crops, but also stucco and plaster. The quarantine zone set up in New Port Richey has so far remained unchanged, according to state officials.
A department representative said the collection process has included both live and dead snail specimens during the treatment process, and that they have not yet found snails outside of the current treatment area.
Additionally, the quarantine zone has a treatment area within it, which has both residential and commercial buildings. The giant snails have been detected on both types of properties.
On July 14, FDACS found snails at 30 of the 525 properties they’d surveyed for the invasive mollusks. About a week later, snails have been found at 32 properties, while they have examined 661. FDACS said the number of properties testing positive for snails was not increasing as quickly as the number of properties they’ve checked, which they said was good.
While the treatment process continues, the department said snails may flee to neighboring properties that haven’t been hit with the treatment chemicals, metaldehyde. FDACS said the snails can move and lay more eggs.
As previously reported, the snails were detected in New Port Richey on June 23. Quarantine was set up the next day and the eradication effort began. The Giant African Land Snail quarantine zone starts in New Port Richey “at the NW corner of US Highway 19 and Ridge Road, proceed E on Ridge Road, S on Little Rd, W on Trouble Creek Rd., N on US Highway 19.”
At a previous press briefing on the snail invasion, FDACS Commissioner Nikki Fried urged residents not to try to eat the snails, known to grow between two and eight inches long and for carrying parasites and diseases.
“Call us, make sure that you’ve got experts, they carry diseases like meningitis with them, and most importantly, do not eat them,” Fried said previously in Clearwater. “This is not a snail to be put on butter and oil and garlic. This is not something that you want to touch, this is not something you want to eat.”
During the early July briefing, Dr. Greg Hodges, assistant director of the FDACS Division of Plant Industry, said the current population of invasive snails, the third time the mollusks have come to Florida, were cream-colored and may have been brought in as part of the illegal pet trade.
“One thing to note about this particular detection, this population has a very light cream-colored body with a typical dark and mottled brown shell,” Hodges said at the time. “The populations that we dealt with in the previous two eradications had dark grey to brown bodies. This cream colored phenotype is very common in the pet trade in Europe and has been intercepted here in Florida previously with the illegal pet trade.”
Floridians who see weird and/or large snails are encouraged to contact the Division of Plant Industry to report a snail sighting, allowing them to check for any potential spread of the population. The FDACS-DPI Hotline number is 1-888-397-1517.
At this point, the giant snails haven’t been found outside of the treatment area, and both the chemical zone and overall quarantine zone have not grown since it was established on June 24.