With the goal of increasing knowledge of population, territory, and behavior, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) asked the public to report sightings of three increasingly rare snakes: the Florida pine snake, southern hog-nose snake, and short-tailed snake.
As a petition for federal protection has been filed for each snake, FWC biologists are assisting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in a two-year study, which will produce a final report on these animals in 2015.
Though all three snakes historically have been found throughout the dryer regions of the state, the Florida pine snake and short-tailed snake were recently added to Florida's "species of special concern."
Sightings of these animals can be reported by "citizen scientists" at the FWC's website. A location and date is requested for each submission and photos can additionally be submitted to help confirm identity. It is hoped that such findings will help determine if the habitat of these snakes has been hurt by widespread development of the past decade
Unlike many Florida-based snakes, all three species spend the majority of time underground in upland settings. With a preference for dryer habitats, these snakes are not typically found in the state's swampy regions, as they pursue a diet of small mammals and other rodents.
Each snake is non-venomous and considered harmless, though the FWC recommends not handling or disturbing the animals.
The Florida pine snake, or Pituophis melanoleucus, is the largest of the three species. This snake typically responds with a loud hiss when threatened and adult varieties can grow up to seven feet in length. In contrast, the southern hog-nose and short-tailed snake both reach only two feet long at maturity.
The FWC cautions that the southern hog-nose looks nearly identical to the more common eastern hog-nose. Primary differences between the two snakes include the eastern hog-nose's darker belly and tendency to grow larger. When reporting sightings of the southern hog-nose, the FWC requests a photo, due to the similarity to the eastern hog-nose.
In total, over 100 varieties of snakes can be found in the ecologically diverse Sunshine State. For additional information, visit the Florida Museum of Natural History, which maintains an online listing of every known Florida snake.
Enjoy this article? Receive e-mail alerts when new Fort Myers Outdoor Recreation articles are available. Just follow the "Subscribe" link.