RALEIGH, N.C. — The
North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
is asking residents to cooperate with the department in searching for the
Giant African Land Snail
in the state, following recent seizures of this plant pest in schools and pet shops in several states.
According to Agriculture Commissioner Britt Cobb, the land-based snails -- which are native to Africa -- can cause extensive damage to agricultural crops and natural resources.
He said they also can be a threat to human health by carrying organisms that can cause serious diseases, and they can eat the paint off houses.
"Our goal is to determine if any of these snails are in North Carolina and to eliminate them as quickly as possible," Cobb said. "Given the serious damage caused by these prolific breeders, we do not want to take a chance on the snail becoming established here.
"It is extremely important that people with this type of snail contact our
Plant Industry Division
so it can be dealt with properly. I urge residents not to dispose of these in any outdoor areas such as yards, parks, streams or other natural settings."
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
has confiscated more than 4,000 of the illegal snails from schools, commercial pet stores and private breeders in Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio over the last several months.
None of the snails has been detected in North Carolina. As part of a national survey effort, the USDA requested that state regulatory officials assist in finding and removing any populations of this pest.
The Giant African Land Snail is one of the largest land snails in the world, growing up to eight inches in length and 4.5 inches in diameter.
When fully grown, the shell consists of seven to nine whorls, with a long and greatly swollen body whorl. The brownish shell covers at least half the length of the snail.
A GALS can live as long as nine years and contain both female and male reproductive organs. In a typical year, every mated adult can lay up to 1,200 eggs.
The NCDA&CS has issued notification letters to schools and pet shops across the state that may have encountered the pest.
"We are requesting that schools or other educational programs, pet shops or members of the public notify us immediately if they suspect they may have this snail," said Dr. Ken Ahlstrom, agricultural research specialist with NCDA&CS.