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Giant African snails invade Houston suburb, public warned

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May 8th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

One of the world's most invasive species has been spotted in a Houston suburb. Authorities are working to confirm the find and are warning people not to touch the giant African land snail, should they find one.

HOUSTON, TX (Catholic Online) - Giant African land snails are among the world's most destructive invasive species and they are already overrunning parts of southern Florida. Now, one may have been spotted in a Houston suburb.

A woman said she found one such snail in her Briar Forest suburb of Houston and snapped a picture of the creature. Officials from local wildlife conservation associations and the USDA have launched an investigation.

The giant African land snail is notorious for destroying crops and eating everything in sight, including plaster from walls. The snails are also a road hazard, puncturing the tires of cars that might run over their shells. The snail also carries a parasite that can cause a deadly form of meningitis in humans. Authorities are warning people in the Houston area if they should see one of these snails, they must not handle them.

The snail is an import from East Africa, and is a popular pet. An infestation in the Caribbean has already destroyed the flora and fauna of at least one island there and are now wreaking havoc in Florida. Wildlife officials in Florida are hoping to halt the snail's spread using poison.

Giant African land snails are very distinctive and easy to recognize. They are quite large, growing as tall as 6 inches or more and can be more than a foot long. They also lay over 1,200 eggs per year, which can help their population spread rapidly.

Authorities hope the snail spotted in Houston is a single specimen, possibly brought home and released by a Florida visitor, and not a harbinger of a mass influx of the creature. If the snails manage to spread across the Houston area, they will be difficult to contain and will cause millions of dollars in damage each year, not to mention the threat they pose to human health.

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