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First potentially deadly worms, now giant snails found in SWFL

Exotic snails could be harmful to all
Posted at 9:16 PM, Aug 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-18 15:35:39-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- First we told you about potentially deadly New Guinea flatworms invading Southwest Florida. Now, we’ve found giant snails are also posing a serious danger to the environment and people here as well.

The exotic snails not only threaten birds, animals and plants but we found hundreds of them in a popular Fort Myers park.

The snails slowly slithered their way across the state of Florida over the past 10 years.

They’re originally from South America but are now creating havoc throughout the globe.

Roy Beckford is an agricultural agent and director of Lee County’s Extension Office, he works with the University of Florida and focuses on mitigating invasive species.

He says ten years ago the Channeled Applesnails had only been seen one time in Northern Florida but now they're popping up everywhere.

Beckford tells us, "I've seen them in hundreds of ponds all across South Florida, I don't think this issue is going away very soon or very easily unless we spend a considerable amount of money on it.”

Beckford also wants people to know, “I don't think they pose a tremendous threat to human beings unless they're eaten as escargot. They may carry parasites that cause problems."

Fox 4 found hundreds of these giant snails at Linear Park in Fort Myers.

Beckford recognized them and said, “The ones you noticed are actually called the Channeled Applesnails, they're called Channeled Applesnails because they have a deep groove in the shell."

You can crush the shells and it doesn't really matter, there's generally no snail inside since animals and birds have already eaten the ones found along the roadside and outer banks.

Unlike the native Florida Applesnail, Channeled snails lay bright pink eggs and destroying them is the best way to keep their numbers down.

Experts say the more of these snails we have, the less food there could be for you and I.

Beckford recalls, "They were introduced into Southeast Asia years ago and devastated rice fields and taro fields."

These snails also threaten our native wildlife. That alone could crush our local eco-system.

According to Beckford, "They compete with them for food and, as a consequence, they cause problems that way."

If you see these giant snails, or their bright pink snail eggs, you're urged to contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Jennifer Bernatis maintains information on these snails and his email address is Jennifer.Bernatis@myfwc.com.