A scan of a postal package at San Francisco International Airport led to the discovery of 20 footlong millipedes sent to the U.S. without proper permits, authorities said Friday.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection specialists found the live millipedes stuffed in soil and paper in a mesh bag inside a package marked "toy car model."
The package was shipped from Germany and arrived at the U.S. Postal Service International Service Center at the airport, customs officials said.
The package, which contained a large plastic foam box, was routed through an X-ray machine, which is when agriculture specialists noticed something abnormal.
The specialists were "quick to notice the deception and took the necessary action,” Brian J. Humphrey, the agency's director of Field Operations in San Francisco, said in a statement.
Authorities say whoever sent the package was trying to bypass federal regulations because it was "misrepresented" and lacked the required import permit.
Importing exotic animals is not illegal, but federal agencies regulate those imports to ensure the proper documentation and permits have been obtained.
Millipedes are slow-moving, multisegmented arthropods that are distinguished by the dozens of pairs of legs on their elongated bodies.