A Giant African land snail is seen in this handout picture from the Florida Department of Agriculture Division of Plant Industry.Reuters
Aug. 29, 2013: U.S. Department of Agriculture training specialist Jodi Daugherty walks with 'Bear', a dog trained to detect the Giant African Land Snail, at a news conference about successes in attempts to eradicate the pest in Miam.Reuters
Florida officials seeking to eradicate a species of giant snails that is invading the state are training Labrador retrievers to help in the fight.
Reuters reports state agriculture authorities are engulfed in an aggressive extermination campaign to snuff out an invasion of Giant African Land Snails, one of the world's most destructive invasive species. Since the campaign started, authorities have collected 128,000 of the snails.
The species has no natural enemies and can grow as big as rats. They devour plants as well as stucco and plaster in a hunt for calcium they need to grow their big shells and can cause massive property damage, Reuters reports.
Now the dogs are being trained to aid in the fight. They will join a team of 45 people who regularly search Miami for the snail.
"They're very good at detecting the Giant African Land Snail," Richard Gaskalla, the head of plant industry at the Florida Agriculture Department told Reuters. "So we're building four-legged technology into this program as quickly as we can."
The snail fighters are also using bait, chemical treatments and experimental traps, and are helped by phone calls from local residents who report sightings.
Gaskalla says the program so far has been a success.
"The number of detections this last year were in the thousands; now they are down to around 200 to 300 a week," he told Reuters.