Giant
Giant African land snail. Photograph courtesy of Andrew Derksen, Florida Cooperative Agriculture Pest Survey Program

Giant African Snails, which are almost the size of a man's palm, have invaded a residential area in Miami-Dade County.

The Agence France-Presse has reported that South Florida continues to battle the snails and that since last September, 35,000 of the creatures have been scooped up. More than 500 specimens were found last week in a garden, that reported noted.

Investigators aren't sure how the invaders, which can grow up to 8 inches long, got into the area. However, Florida's Department of Agriculture is working to rid the area of the giant African snails as soon as possible because they eat at least 500 different types of plants. Investigators are worried that the snails will impact Florida's ecosystem. Giant African Snails also destroy stucco and plaster.

We have collected over a thousand so far and we have only just begun, Denise Feiber, public information director for Florida's Division of Plant Industry, told ABC News.

They leave excrement all over the sides of houses. They're very nasty, she said. These things are not the cute little snails that you see.

Giant African Snails can also spread disease, as they carry a parasite that can cause meningitis, Feiber said.

Agriculture authorities knew they had a crisis on their hands after a homeowner reported finding the snails in her yard. The snails are said to have both the male and female reproductive organs and lay some 1,200 eggs a year.

The slimy snails were found in Florida in the late 1960s when a boy smuggled three snails on a flight and raised them as pets. However, his grandmother got tired of them and freed them into her garden, ABC News reported.

It took the state 10 years to eradicate and it was a million dollar eradication program and that was in the late 1960s, early 1970s, Feiber said. Eighteen thousand snails were collected.

Giant
Giant African land snail. Photograph courtesy of Andrew Derksen, Florida Cooperative Agriculture Pest Survey Program