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South Florida dealing with snail infestation

Feb. 1, 2014 at 1:49 PM   |   Comments

MIAMI, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- Florida pest control officials are warning the public a recent snail infestation poses a risk to crops and even buildings.

In Miami-Dade County, officials are logging between 10 and 20 calls per day reporting sightings of giant African land snails. The mucus-covered mollusks can grow to 1 foot in length and, in addition to being gross looking with a noxious smell, they consume large amounts of plant life, making them a danger to farmers and a nuisance for gardeners, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel said.

The snails have even been known to eat plaster and stucco from buildings to replenish their calcium shells.

Snail-wranglers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture said a public awareness campaign aimed at eradicating the snails has been relatively successful, with several workers kept busy collecting the mollusks when sighted.

The USDA is training two Labrador retrievers to sniff out the snails if they slink away before the wranglers can arrive to scoop them up.

Officials said they believe the snails were first brought to the state from their native Nigeria by a pastor whose church encouraged members to drink snail juice -- hardly a wise plan because ingesting their mucus causes violent illness in humans, the newspaper said.

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