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For Immediate Release, March 21, 2012

Contacts:  Cameron Young, Center for Snake Conservation, (770) 500-0000
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495

Expedition Conducts First-ever Extensive Search for South Florida Rainbow Snake

Although Researchers Find No Sign of 'Extinct' Snake,
Local Tip Suggests it Still Exists; More Searches Planned

FISHEATING CREEK, Fla.— Biologists just wrapped up a five-day expedition in South Florida in search of the region’s rainbow snake — an elusive, nocturnal species that may have been prematurely declared extinct last fall. Although the survey didn’t turn up any sign of the snake, researchers confirmed there’s good habitat for the snake at Fisheating Creek and are tantalized by a reliable report of a sighting earlier this year by a local resident.

The survey, which ended Monday, included staff from the Center for Snake Conservation, Center for Biological Diversity, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It focused on Fisheating Creek in Glades County, Fla. — the only place where the rainbow snake was known to live. Researchers plan to resume their search later this year when water levels begin to rise.

“We did not find a snake this time,” said Cameron Young, executive director of the Center for Snake Conservation. “But we’ll be back this summer to conduct further searches and are hopeful the snake can be found.”

In response to a 2010 petition from the Center for Biological Diversity to protect the South Florida rainbow snake under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last fall declared the snake extinct. This declaration was made despite several unconfirmed sightings and without a thorough search to see if it still exists.

“It’s too soon to write the obituary for this unique and beautiful snake,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “We made a solid effort to find the snake, but more surveys are needed before it can be considered lost to extinction.”

Twelve researchers were involved in the survey, which included both trapping and walking the creek at night to look for the snake. In addition to surveys, the Center for Snake Conservation and Center for Biological Diversity are offering a $500 reward for anyone who can provide photographic evidence of a rainbow snake on Fisheating Creek. 

The rainbow snake feeds exclusively on American eels and takes its name from the red stripes and red and yellow patches on its bluish-black skin. Adults can grow to more than four feet long.

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