Enormous Rat-Sized Snails Force Entire Florida Town Into Quarantine

by Leanne Stahulak

Florida residents must watch out for rat-sized, eight-inch-long snails that have invaded the New Port Richey area of Pasco County.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) has placed a quarantine on the area since the snails carry rat lungworm, a parasite known to cause meningitis in humans and animals. This quarantine does not keep residents from moving outside of the affected zone. But they can not move plants, soil, yard waste, debris, compost, and building materials.

Per The Daily Mail, this species of invasive snail is native to Africa and has struck Florida twice in the past. Both times the state has eradicated the Giant African Land Snail, but it is difficult to do since the snail has no natural predators. Plus, it reproduces quickly. These snails lay 2,500 eggs a year, and each individual snail lives up to nine years.

“Each snail contains both female and male reproductive organs,” the United States Department of Agriculture said in a statement. “After a single mating, each snail can produce 100 to 500 eggs. These snails can reproduce several more times without mating again. They can generate clutches of eggs every two to three months.”

The snails are especially damaging to Florida’s agriculture, infrastructure, and ecosystem since they consume more than 500 plants. They also feed on the stucco found in some Florida homes for calcium.

The FDACS confirmed the existence of the Giant African Land Snail in Florida on June 23. Treatment to combat the snails began on June 29, with the FDACS applying a metaldehyde-based molluscicide (snail bait). This pesticide is commonly used against snails and slugs. The Department says it’s approved for use in “a variety of vegetable and ornamental crops in the field or greenhouse, on fruit trees, small fruit plants, in avocado and citrus orchards, berry plants, banana plants, and in limited residential areas.”

Amid Snail Invasion, Florida Teen Gets Bitten By Shark

It’s been a rough week for Florida residents. In addition to the Giant African Land Snail invading Florida, 17-year-old Addison Bethea reported that a shark bit her.

Bethea was scalloping near Grassy Island at Keaton Beach in Taylor County, Florida, on Thursday, June 30. Per ABC News, she spoke about the experience on Good Morning America while recovering at a hospital in Tallahassee.

“And the next thing I know something latches onto my leg and I was like that’s not right. And then I look and it’s a big old shark,” she shared. “Then I remember from watching the Animal Planet to like…punch [it] in the nose or something like that. And I couldn’t get around to his nose the way he bit me.”

Luckily, Bethea’s EMT brother, Rhett Willingham, stepped in. “She came back up and I saw, like, the blood and everything, and I saw the shark,” Willingham said. “So then I swam over there, grabbed her, and then pushed them all, kind of trying to separate them. And he just kept coming. So I grabbed her, swam backward and kicked him, and then yelled for help.”