Hundreds of thousands of Giant African land snails are taking over south Florida, after first being discovered in the area in 2011.
The snails can grow as large as rats, and since 2011, 117,000 have been found and more than a thousand are caught each week, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture. They are considered one of the most destructive invasive species in the world.
Denise Feiber, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Agriculture, that the snails are not as harmless as they may seem to people who think they make cute pets. She warned they can devastate environments where they have no natural predators.
CNN reports that the snails also carry the parasite rat lungworm, which can cause a form of meningitis and is potentially deadly in humans, Feiber said, although no such cases have yet been reported in the United States.
In addition to more than 500 species of plants, The snails eat through stucco and plaster, using the calcium for their shells. They can grow as big as rats, and their large, pointy shells can blow out tires. They also reproduce quickly -- they reach adulthood in one year, and then lay up to 1,200 eggs per year for their 9-year lifespan.
The last known Florida invasion of the giant snails was in 1966, when a boy brought three into Miami after vacationing in Hawaii. His grandmother released the snails into her garden where the population grew to 17,000 snails within seven years. The state spent $1 million and 10 years eradicating them.