Parts of Florida’s Broward County were placed under quarantine after a giant African land snail was spotted in the area, CBS News reported.
Adult snails of this species can grow up to eight inches and lay thousands of eggs at a time. Their shells have pointy edges that are sharp enough to puncture the tires of vehicles that run over them. They also pose a serious risk to humans because they carry a parasite that can cause meningitis.
The giant snail is among the most invasive species in the world; it eats plaster, paint, and stucco, poses significant threats to vegetation, according to CBS.
Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services also said the snails “could be devastating to Florida agriculture and natural areas as they cause extensive damage to tropical and subtropical environments.”
The portion of Broward County under quarantine covers Fort Lauderdale and is about 3.5 square miles, the report said. The quarantine went into effect on Tuesday.
The FDACS said that during the quarantine, it’s illegal “to move a giant African land snail or a regulated article, including, but not limited to, plants, plant parts, plants in soil, soil, yard waste, debris, compost or building materials, within, through or from the defined quarantine area without a compliance agreement.”
The agency added that it will use a metaldehyde-based molluscicide — snail bait — to treat for the pest, and that the treatment is approved for residential use.
It’s illegal to import or possess the giant African land snail in the US; the snail was first spotted in Miami in 1969, according to ABC News. By 1973, more than 18,000 snails and their eggs were found and destroyed. The snail was declared eradicated in Florida twice: once in 1975, and the second time in 2021, ABC News reported, citing state officials.