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Ever See Snails This Big?

A couple of average size Giant African snails found in Miami in 2011 (Getty Images)

And I thought I had a problem with deer destroying my garden. Giant African snails have been showing up in Australia and they’re using any means possible to get rid of them. When I say giant – we’re talking snails that can grow up to a foot long. Generally they’re the size of a human fist. They have a brown shell with dark brown stripes.

Size is not the problem – it’s their appetite. Giant African snails will eat almost anything. They’re known to devour more than 500 types of plants including vegetables, fruits and trees.

They also reproduce like crazy. Snails have both male and female reproductive organs and one snail can lay up to 400 eggs per reproductive cycle and 1200 a year. In 1966, three Giant African snails were smuggled into the United States and a Miami woman ended up releasing them into the garden. In a short time there were 18,000 of them and it took 10 years and $1-million dollars for Florida State Conservation officials to eradicate them.

They’re illegal to possess in this country. They’ve been found at some pet stores, schools and one private breeder and were confiscated. Some science teachers use them in class without realizing they’re illegal.

They thrive in warmer climates, but in the cold they go into a state of hibernation and become active again when it warms up. If you ever see a snail with a shell that’s more than two inches long it’s likely a Giant African snail.

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