Slime time: Giant snails freak out Floridians

Oct. 4, 2011 at 4:17 PM ET

Andrew Derksen / Florida Cooperative Agriculture /
Giant African land snails have been found on 114 properties around South Florida.

Giant African land snails are plaguing homeowners in South Florida, leaving some of them grossed out and panicked. Don’t be fooled by their proverbial slow pace; if it’s one thing these slimy creatures are good at doing fast, it's mating. Like those evolved dinos in “Jurassic Park,” these snails have both male and female organs, and they can lay up to 1,200 eggs a year.

Not only that: They can be up to 8 inches long and can cause damage to homes and gardens. And then there's the ick factor, which the Wall Street Journal’s Arian Campo-Flores explains best: “Homeowners who discover the creatures in their yards often find them disgusting. The snails' engorged bodies extend far from their shells, and they eat so ravenously that they leave trails of excrement on walls and the ground,” she writes.

J Pat Carter / AP /
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has identified a population of Giant African land snails in Miami. They are one of the most damaging snails in the world because they consume at least 500 types of plants, can cause structural damage to plaster and stucco, and can carry a parasitic nematode that can lead to meningitis in humans.

Officials first started hunting down the critters on Sept. 8, and since then have collected about 10,000 of them. And you think your job sucks.

J Pat Carter / AP /
Justin Nipaver, with the Florida Department of Agriculture, collects Giant African Land Snails from a lawn in Miami, Friday, Sept. 30, 2011.