Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, April 5, 2018

Contact: Elise Bennett, (727) 755-6950,

Louisiana Pine Snake Protected as Threatened Under Endangered Species Act

Dwindling Longleaf Pine Habitat in Louisiana, Texas Is Hurting Rare Snake

LAFAYETTE, La.— In response to a legal victory by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service protected the Louisiana pine snake today as threatened 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.

“I’m relieved the Fish and Wildlife Service finally recognized this severely imperiled snake needs protection,” said Elise Bennett, a Center attorney who works to protect reptiles and amphibians. “The Louisiana pine snake and its unique longleaf pine habitat are important parts of our natural heritage in the South. The Endangered Species Act will ensure they’re around for generations to come.”

Louisiana pine snakes require open longleaf pine forests with sandy, well-drained soil with groundcover that supports Baird’s pocket gopher populations. The snakes in turn use the gopher’s intricate burrow systems for shelter. But urbanization, agriculture, logging and suppression of natural fires have degraded the vast majority of this rare habitat, leaving pine snakes with few places to thrive.

Development also renders snakes vulnerable to vehicle collisions on roads that fragment their habitat. 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.

“To save the pine snake, we’ve got to protect this rare longleaf pine habitat,” said Bennett. “I hope the Fish and Wildlife Service will move quickly to designate protected critical habitat for these snakes. That’s supposed to happen at the same time a species is protected in most cases, but it rarely does.”

The Service also proposed a special “Section 4(d)” rule that would permit and encourage beneficial forest management across the pine snake’s habitat, provided specific conditions to protect the snake and its main food source — Baird’s pocket gopher — are met.

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.

The pine snake is the 194th species protected by the Center’s landmark legal settlement of 2011. Read more about the Center’s campaign to address the amphibian and reptile extinction crisis.

Pine snake

Louisiana pine snake photo courtesy USFWS. Images are available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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