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Broward Shudders As Giant African Snails Cross Border From Miami-Dade

Rick Stone

A big fear of state agriculture officials isn't a fear anymore. It's reality.

The giant African land snails that have plagued Miami-Dade County -- but only Miami-Dade County -- for three years have now spread to Broward County.

A state rapid-response team has been digging up the huge mollusks at two properties in the Oak Hill neighborhood of rural Davie since Wednesday. Florida Department of Agriculture spokesman Mark Fagan says 26 snails were found the first day and as many as 60 on Thursday.

"They're slimy," says snail team leader Kathy Wyatt. "You have to watch their slime trails and try to stay out of it."

'You have to watch their slime trails and try to stay out of it.'

These snails, some of them half a foot long, are a substantial threat. Experts say they are voracious eaters of any of 500 commercial and ornamental plants. They carry microbes that can cause human meningitis. And to strengthen their shells, they will eat the stucco right off the walls of your house.

Giant African land snails were first spotted in Miami-Dade in September of 2011. Since then the department has collected more than 140,000 of the snails in a massive eradication effort.

And now they've spread to Broward County.

"This is very very concerning to us here in Davie," says town mayor Judy Paul. "We have a lot of nurseries and agricultural properties, as well as residents who have beautiful gardens."

Paul said she's been taking frantic phone calls all day from nursery owners and planning a big public information campaign to alert Davie residents and urge them to be on the lookout.

African land snails are among the top 10 worst invasive species that Florida contends with.