Fish and Wildlife Proposes Adding Two Snake Species to Endangered List

by Amy Myers
Photo by: Don and Melinda Crawford/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is concerned about the condition of two snake species native to Florida, and in response to its recent findings, is proposing to add these two animals to the list under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The Key ring-necked snake (Diadophis punctatus acricus) and the rim rock crowned snake (Tantilla oolitica) are both nonvenomous species that depend on permanent freshwater sources, most frequently, small holes that appear in limestone. The Service worries that a combination of human activity, drought, climate change, fire activity and rising sea levels may deplete the state of these two reptile species altogether.

“The extensive network of holes, tunnels, and cavities in the limestone substrate most likely assists in creating more permanent water sources,” the Service reported in the proposal. “During times of drought, these sources may become scarce and the Key ring-necked snakes may need to seek out other freshwater sources.”

Because of this, the reptiles requires more than one water source in case one dries.

“If all local water sources within a snake’s home range become dry, the snake may need to expend more energy and time in search of new water sources,” the proposal read.

As for the rim rock crowned snake, “The majority of suitable rim rock crowned snake habitat in southeastern Miami-Dade County and the Florida Keys has been developed and is highly impacted by human activities. Additionally, the Florida Keys are limited naturally in their land area.”

USFW Also Proposes to Designate Critical Habitats for Snake Species

With all of the conditions threatening both species, in addition to recognizing the species as endangered, the USFW is also proposing to designate critical habitats for the reptiles.

The designated habitat includes approximately 2,604 acres in Monroe County for the Key ring-necked snake and approximately 5,972 acres in Miami-Dade County and Monroe County for the rim rock crowned snake. According to the Service’s proposal, these potential actions are in response to a petition and lawsuit that the Center for Biological Diversity filed earlier this year.

The Key ring-necked snake is a relatively small reptile, averaging just 6 to 10 inches in length. One of the species’ recognizable features includes a dark-gray/black dorsal surface and bright red/orange abdomen. Typically, the Key ring-necked snake occupies the pine rocklands and rockland hammocks in the Florida Keys. Meanwhile, the rim rock crowned snake, 7-9 inches in length with a black head and tan body, inhabits the shallow soil, rocks and stumps from the lower Florida Keys to Miami-Dade County.

Both of these creatures tend to occupy underground or hard-to-find environments, and the Service mentioned that there are limits to the information available regarding the nature and status of the two reptile species. Because of this, the USFW stated that officials will also complete an assessment of each snake’s population as a proxy.