Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, October 6, 2014

Contact: Collette Adkins Giese, (651) 955-3821

Black Pine Snakes Proposed for Protection Under Endangered Species Act

Declines Driven by Destruction of Southeast's Longleaf Pine Ecosystem

JACKSON, Miss.— In accordance with an agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity that speeds protection decisions for 757 species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed to protect black pine snakes as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. The snake depends on longleaf pine forests in the Southeast that are being lost to conversion to agriculture and pine plantations; fire suppression; and urbanization. The snake has been waiting for protection since 1982.

Black pine snake
Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons/John Sullivan. This photo is available for media use.

“It’s good news that black pine snakes are finally getting the protection they need to survive,” said the Center’s Collette Adkins Giese. “The Endangered Species Act has prevented the extinction of 99 percent of the plants and animals under its care. Protection for this beautiful snake will help safeguard its future, along with the future of the South’s once extensive longleaf pine forests.”

The decline of the black pine snake mirrors the decline of these longleaf pine forests, which have been reduced to less than 5 percent of their original extent. In the range of the black pine snake, longleaf pine is now largely confined to isolated patches on private land and the DeSoto National Forest in Mississippi. Habitat has been eliminated and degraded through land-use conversions, primarily for urban development, agriculture and pine plantations. Most of the remaining patches of longleaf pine on private land are fragmented, degraded, second-growth forests.

“The black pine snake — like the red cockaded woodpecker, gopher tortoise and dozens of other wildlife species in the Southeast — depends on longleaf pine forests,” said Adkins Giese. “The proposed listing of yet another longleaf-dependent species should be a wakeup call that the Southeast is losing its natural heritage through the destruction of this critically endangered ecosystem.”

Black pine snakes live in upland, open longleaf pine forests with sandy, well-drained soils and dense grassy or herbaceous groundcover. Adults retreat and hibernate in rotted-out root systems while juveniles use small mammal burrows. These large, powerful constricting snakes can grow up to 7 feet in length and hiss loudly and vibrate their tails when encountered. They are harmless to humans and feed on rodents like mice, rats and squirrels, as well as rabbits and other small animals.

To date 138 plants and animals have received protection as a result of the Center’s 2011 agreement, and another 13 are proposed for protection.

Read more about the Center’s 757 agreement and the Center’s campaign to address the amphibian and reptile extinction crisis.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 775,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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