Louisiana Pine Snake Proposed for Endangered Species Act Protection
Dwindling Longleaf Pine Habitat in Louisiana, Texas Threatens Rare Snake

In response to a landmark settlement agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity that expedites protection decisions for 757 species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed protecting the Louisiana pine snake under the Endangered Species Act. These highly imperiled snakes, found only in isolated areas in Louisiana and Texas, have been waiting for federal protection on a “candidate” list for almost 34 years.

“The Louisiana pine snake only lives in longleaf pine forests, which have disappeared in the face of logging, urban sprawl and the loss of natural fires,”
said Elise Bennett, an attorney at the Center who works to protect imperiled reptiles and amphibians.
“For over 30 years, this habitat continued to degrade and disappear while the pine snake awaited protection. The Endangered Species Act is needed now more than ever to help restore the places this snake needs to recover.”

The snakes require open longleaf pine forests with sandy, well-drained soil and herbaceous groundcover capable of supporting Baird’s pocket gopher populations, whose intricate burrow systems provide shelter for the snakes. They are also vulnerable to impacts from vehicle collisions on roads. Though historically Louisiana pine snakes ranged across nine Louisiana parishes and 14 Texas counties, they now inhabit only four Louisiana parishes and five Texas counties.

Practical predators, Louisiana pine snakes feed primarily on the pocket gophers whose burrows they inhabit. Because the underground burrows offer limited space for hunting, these resourceful snakes have adapted unique methods for catching their prey, using the confining walls of the burrows to their advantage. Louisiana pine snakes spend more than half of their time underground and are harmless to humans.

“These increasingly rare, unique snakes are an important part of the web of life in Texas and Louisiana, and they contribute to the states’ natural heritage,”
said Bennett.
“Endangered Species Act listing will help ensure a future for these fascinating snakes.”

 

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