BELLECHASSE, La. - Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser is asking for the public's help in ridding the parish of a species of large snails that can chew up plant material in large quantities.

Nungesser said the apple snail, which can be up to the size of a man's fist, has been found in canals and ditches along Barriere Road in Belle Chasse and as far south as Jesuit Bend.

Nungesser is concerned about another attack on the parish's eco system, which has suffered from hurricanes in recent years and this year's oil spill.

'We should not tolerate another invasive species which can damage our ecosystem,' he said. 'It is important that we, as a community, act quickly.'

Nungesser said anyone who sees an apple snail should put it in a plastic bag and throw it in the garbage. Anyone who comes across a cluster of eggs is asked to smash the cluster and drop it into the water.

The clusters could be between 200-600 eggs.

The Parish said it reported the snail sightings to the Louisiana Department of Wildllfie and Fisheries and the Barataria Terrebone National Estuary Program who track the snails.

Snails should not be consumed in their raw form as they can transmit disease, most notably the rat lungworm. The rat lungworm is a deadly parasite which can be transmitted to both humans and other animals. There is no risk, however, from handling the bright, pink egg sacks or the apple snails, but the Parish Health Department encourages residents to wear gloves while doing so and to make sure to wash your hands afterward.

Anyone with questions regarding apple snails or if anyone has seen them beyond the Belle Chasse area in Plaquemines Parish, please call the Plaquemines Parish Health Department, at 504-394-3510.

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