JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- They are one of the most damaging and largest snails in the world: Giant African Land Snails. They can literally eat your house, causing structural damage to plaster and stucco. They've invaded South Florida, but now a Jacksonville couple thinks they found one here on the First Coast.
"This looks like it's a larger one than this one and more pronounced as far as the stripes, but this one has the same stripes in it ... If you sit there and look at it, it's the same," said Bill Wolford.
He thinks a snail his wife found in the backyard of their Westside Jacksonville home Tuesday morning could likely be anon-native young Giant African land snail.
"I said 'wow what is this thing doing here? How it did get here?'"
Judy Wolford said she noticed the small snail on the ground near her stucco home because of its shell. When she showed it to her husband, he thought it looked very similar to one he had just seen on the news that has been causing damage in Miami-Dade County.
"They are very invasive. They destroy everything they get in contact with, plants and such but they also eat stucco. They're after the calcium in the stucco for their shells. They produce about 1,200 little ones every year," explained Wolford.
Experts say they can also be dangerous if you handle them. They can carry rat-lung worm which is linked to meningitis.
"I don't want my yard overrun with them or even the neighborhood or the whole city because if they are having a problem with them down in South Florida, that's not good," said Joy Wolford.
First Coast News emailed pictures of the snail the Wolfords found to the Florida Department of Agriculture. Experts will look at the pictures and if they think it could be a Giant African Land Snail they will send someone to their home to verify the finding. A spokeswoman said theywould then likely implement a full eradication program in the neighborhood if it was a Giant African Land Snail.
Experts contacted First Coast News after reviewing the pictures and confirmed that the snail the Wolfords found is either a Rosey Wolf Snail or a Non-native Bulimulus Storadicus Land Snail that was recently introduced into Jacksonville and also Nassau County but does not eat your house.
Experts said if residents believe they have identified a Giant African Land Snail to call 888-397-1517 to make arrangements to have the snail collected.
The Florida Department of Agriculture said to preserve the snail sample, use gloves to put it in a zip lock bag, seal it and place it in a bucket or plastic cover.