LIVE OAK, FLA., Aug. 23, 2019 – A Florida pine snake (Pituophis melanoleucus mugitus) was discovered at the Suwannee River Water Management District’s (District) recreational tract in the upper Suwannee Valley. The snake is currently listed as a State-designated Threatened species by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission because of the declining population from habitat loss.
Over the past several years, the District has focused on sandhill restoration at many tracts within north Florida by removing hardwood, thinning pine timber, prescribe burning and other restoration methods. This restoration creates an open and pine dominant habitat with grassy groundcover that is an ideal environment for the Florida pine snake, as well as other threatened or endangered species.
“Funding from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (USFSW) and the National Wild Turkey Federation has allowed our land management team to restore and maintain District tracts,” said Hugh Thomas, Executive Director of the District. “Discovering the Florida pine snake on our District tract confirms that our efforts in restoration are positively impacting the habitat.”
Thomas has recently approved an additional grant agreement with USFSW’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program. The grant provides the District with approximately $23,000 in 2020 to continue similar restoration efforts for District lands. The restoration projects under this grant will specifically target and benefit Federal trust species, such as the Florida pine snake.
“Because of alteration and fragmentation to much of Florida's upland habitats, the Florida Pine Snake is not found in many areas of its historic range,” said Ryan Sims, Natural Resource Specialist at the District. “Finding the Florida pine snake on District lands is a great indicator that we are helping to maintain a healthy population.”
The Florida pine snake is a non-venomous snake that grows up to 7 feet long and live about 80 percent of their lives underground in pocket gopher or gopher tortoise burrows. The snake has a pattern of reddish or dark tan blotches on tan, brownish-grey or rusty brown skin. The Florida pine snake feeds primarily on pocket gophers, as well as small mammals, lizards and reptile eggs.