The giant African land snail is hardly your garden variety pest.
It's the size of a rat, chews through Florida vegetation like it's a buffet and has a particular fondness for eating cement and stucco on houses.
Wildlife officials are asking communities across Tampa Bay to be on the lookout for the distinctive snail, which leaves a wide swath of slime in its path.
Biologists from the Department of Agriculture are setting traps for the snails, hoping to catch them before they overrun the Sunshine State.
Florida has a reputation as the adoptive home for a host of unusual creatures, from poisonous toads to pythons.
But wildlife officials are focused on the increasing threat the African land snail poses to native plants and Florida farms, according to National Geographic.
So far the giant African land snail has been found primarily in Miami-Dade, but it is reproducing so fast that officials are concerned that it may infest other parts of the Sunshine State.
Anyone who believes that he or she has encountered a giant African land snail should contact the Department of Agriculture at 888-397-1517.
The public is warned not to try to kill the land snail but to wait for a wildlife expert to examine the creature.
The snail is known to eat 500 different types of plants. It has made its way into the Sunshine State via smugglers, as the snails are sometimes adopted as exotic pets and are used in an Africa-influenced religious practice that has flourished in Miami-Dade.
- The snails reach adulthood at six months of age and can produce up to 100 eggs per month. They live up to eight years, growing as large as a rat.
- The snails also will consume house stucco and cement for the calcium they contain, which hardens their shells.
- They also carry disease, with parasites found in the slime of the snail, which can enter a person's body.