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Deadly giant snail found in Houston
5/7/13 -  Residents of a Houston neighborhood are being warned to stay away from giant African land snails after a woman found one in her garden and snapped a photo of it.

The snails, researchers warn, are potentially dangerous to touch, in part because they can carry meningitis. Scientists have warned anyone who comes in contact with them to wash their hands thoroughly.

"They also carry a parasitic disease that can cause a lot of harm to humans and sometimes even death," Autumn Smith-Herron, director of the Institute for the Study of Invasive Species at Sam Houston State University, told NBC Houston affiliate KPRC.

A woman gardening in the Briar Forest neighborhood of Houston found the snail and notified workers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center who deal with invasive plants. It is the first reported sighting of the mollusk in Texas, and no one seems to know how it got there.

The giant snails can lay 100 eggs per month, and though only one has been found, it is believed more are in the area.

Jack Fendrick, who lives near where the slimy giant was discovered, said he will do his part to warn of the potentially deadly snails.

"I think most kids especially would look at a big snail and want to touch it," he said. "That's scary."

Giant African Land Snails Invade Florida

A fellow veterinarian recently remarked on the unique ecosystem we enjoy down here in South Florida. As a lifelong Northeasterner, she couldn't seem to fathom the biological extremes our weather makes possible, a list that has grown from alligator-eating snakes to include - get this - giant African land snails.

"Have you seen any of those giant snails?" she asked. "Jeez, it's like South Florida is some kind of biosphere gone awry!"

Yes, I happen to have seen my share of these. Luckily, however, none have thus far seen fit to invade my personal space. In fact, I've only ever witnessed these things in the context of a "what'll-this-thing-do-to-my-dog?" vet visit.

Which is bad enough. Because in case you haven't yet heard tell of these strange invertebrates, let me describe: They look like fist-size slugs encased in a crunchy striped shell. Think escargot in the Land of the Lost, where everything is at least a thousand times bigger than you'd expect it to be. Not appetizing.

Florida Crops Threatened
Giant African land snails have even been compared in size to New York rats. Which is kind of apropos, seeing as they're about as welcome as any sewer-dwelling rodent. After all, National Geographic Magazine tells us these creatures have been known to eat 500 species of plants here in South Florida - a big deal for our native flora, our agricultural economy and, potentially, for the U.S. food supply, too.

Ahhh, the spoils of globalization. It's as if the entire world conspired to set loose its creepiest crawliest in our backyard. Like one big science experiment run amok:

"Hey, Mom, let's take it to Florida! It'll be happy down there with all those slithery things in the Everglades. Maybe it'll make friends with the pythons!"


Slimy, giant snails invade South Florida
April, 2013
 ORLANDO — South Florida is fighting a growing infestation of one of the world's most destructive invasive species: the giant African land snail, which can grow as big as a rat and gnaw through stucco and plaster.  More than 1,000 of the mollusks are being caught each week in Miami-Dade and 117,000 in total since the first snail was spotted by a homeowner in September 2011.

Residents will soon likely begin encountering them more often, crunching them underfoot as the snails emerge from underground hibernation at the start of the state's rainy season in just seven weeks, Feiber said.
The snails attack "over 500 known species of plants ... pretty much anything that's in their path and green.

In some Caribbean countries, such as Barbados, which are overrun with the creatures, the snails' shells blow out tires on the highway and turn into hurling projectiles from lawnmower blades, while their slime and excrement coat walls and pavement.

A typical snail can produce about 1,200 eggs a year and the creatures are a particular pest in homes because of their fondness for stucco, devoured for the calcium content they need for their shells.
The snails also carry a parasitic rat lungworm that can cause illness in humans, including a form of meningitis.

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