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NATURAL HISTORY

SOUTH FLORIDA RAINBOW SNAKE } Farancia erytrogramma seminola
FAMILY: Colubridae

DESCRIPTION: The rainbow snake has a glossy, bluish-black back with three red stripes going down it, in addition to yellow and red spots on its belly. It can grow to be as long as 62 inches, with small, dark eyes and a pointed tail. Male rainbow snakes are smaller than females but have relatively longer and thicker tails.

HABITAT: This is an aquatic snake that has only been found in a freshwater stream with substantial aquatic vegetation. Fisheating Creek, its only known location, is a sluggish, small to moderate sized stream flowing through a cypress stand. During drought Fisheating Creek is reduced to a series of disconnected lakes. Though the South Florida rainbow snake has only been found in creeks, it could possibly inhabit areas similar to those inhabited by other rainbow snakes.

RANGE: The South Florida Rainbow Snake is known only from a single population in Fisheating Creek, flowing into the west side of Lake Okeechobee in the southern peninsula of Florida.

MIGRATION: This species is nonmigratory.

BREEDING: Rainbow snakes lay clutches of about 22–50 eggs. Young hatch in late summer or fall but may overwinter in the nest before emerging.

LIFE CYCLE: Due to their secretive habits, relatively little is known about the ecology of rainbow snakes, including their lifespan.

FEEDING: This reptile feeds on the American eel. It eats its prey alive, usually swallowing it head first.

THREATS: The South Florida rainbow snake is threatened by development, dams and pollution, collection and drought.

POPULATION TREND: This snake has been declared extinct, with the last specimen collected in 1952. However, more recent unconfirmed sightings give reason to believe it may still survive in small numbers.

 

Rainbow snake photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons/AlanGarrett