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Center for Biological Diversity:
Mexican garter snake
Narrow-headed garter snake 

Arizona Republic, July 8, 2014

Feds: Arizona snakes endangered
By Julianne Defilippis, Cronkite News Service

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service granted threatened-species status Monday to northern Mexican and narrow-headed garter snakes, saying the animals in Arizona and New Mexico could otherwise be in danger of extinction.

The protection stopped short of the stricter endangered-species status for the snakes, but conservationists and government officials said the threatened designation will provide protection while giving them the flexibility in setting regulations.

"Protecting these snakes under the Endangered Species Act really is important to getting them on the path back to recovery," said Collette Adkins Giese, the reptile and amphibian staff attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, which has been pushing for the designation.

The two non-venomous snakes reside in rivers and other aquatic habitats, with a range that includes much of Arizona and parts of New Mexico and northern Mexico.

Their numbers have fallen sharply from loss of habitat and competition with non-native species, officials said.

One challenge in issuing the declaration is the difficulty in getting information on the snakes, said Jeff Servoss, a biologist in Arizona for the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Because their range includes tribal land and parts of Mexico, it can be difficult to gain access and gather information.

"We don't have the resolution of field data to get the comfort level required to call something endangered," Servoss said.

But he hopes the threatened listing can serve as a "wake-up call" on the problem of non-native species in the Southwest.

The threatened status officially takes effect in 30 days. At that point, Adkins Giese said, it will be illegal to collect or kill the snakes, among other protections.

Collection was already banned under Arizona law, but the federal listing means any time there is an activity that affects the snakes, it will now have to be reviewed by the service, Servoss said.

Where the snakes are

The historic ranges of the narrow-headed garter snake and the northern Mexican garter snake, which have been declared threatened species:

Narrow-headed garter snake

• Arizona counties: Apache, Coconino, Gila, Graham, Greenlee, Navajo, Yavapai.

• New Mexico counties: Catron, Grant, Hidalgo, Sierra.

Northern Mexican garter snake

• Arizona counties: Apache, Cochise, Coconino, Gila, Graham, Greenlee, La Paz, Mohave, Navajo, Pima, Pinal, Santa Cruz, Yavapai.

• New Mexico counties: Catron, Grant.

• Mexican states: Aguascalientes, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Guanajuato, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Mexico, Nayarit, Puebla, Queretaro, San Luis Potosi, Sonora, Tlaxcala, Veracruz, Zacatecas.


© 2014 azcentral.com.

This article originally appeared here.

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton