Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Rainbow Snake Spotted in a Florida County for the First Time Since 1969

Animals
A rainbow snake, a rare reptile spotted in a Florida county for the first time in more than 50 years, seen here on July 5, 2013. Kevin Enge / FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute / Flickr

A Florida hiker recently stumbled across a slithering surprise — a rare snake that hadn't been spotted in the area for more than 50 years.


Tracey Cauthen discovered the rainbow snake (Farancia erytrogramma) while hiking in the Ocala National Forest, north of Orlando, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Wildlife Research Institute announced in a Feb. 19 Facebook post.

"A Rare Sighting!" the institute enthused.

The Florida Museum of Natural History confirmed that Cauthen's was the first sighting of the elusive reptile in Florida's Marion County since 1969.

Rainbow snakes are "seldom seen, even by herpetologists, due to their cryptic habits," the Wildlife Research Institute explained.

Because rainbow snakes are aquatic, they spend most of their time hidden in vegetation on the water's edge. They also burrow near creeks, lakes, marshes and other wetlands.

Despite their underground habits, they earn their brilliant name. The Florida Museum of Natural History offers a full description:

Adults are large and thick bodied. The back is iridescent blue-black with a bright red stripe down the middle and an additional reddish-pink stripe on each side. The lower sides of the body are yellow or pink fading into the red belly. Black spots on each belly scale form three lines of dots down the belly. The chin and throat are yellow.

Biologists with the Wildlife Research Institute thought that this rainbow snake was seen in the forest because the recent lowering of water levels at the Rodman Reservoir had encouraged it to move. The snakes are also sometimes discovered under riverbank flotsam like Spanish moss or logs, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History. They have also been plowed up in fields or seen crossing the road at night, especially after it rains.

The snakes live throughout the Florida Panhandle, as well as on the northern peninsula and in the north-central part of the state. Another population has been reported around Tampa Bay. The species also lives along the Atlantic Coast Plain between eastern Louisiana and southern Maryland.

The snakes are entirely non-threatening to humans.

"If captured, it may press its pointed tail tip into one's hand," the museum wrote. "The tail is totally harmless and cannot sting or even break the skin."

The snakes mostly eat eels, hence their nickname "eel moccasin." They grow to be 3.3 to 4.5 feet. The snake Cauthen discovered was around four feet.

While they are rarely seen by humans, they are not endangered. They are a species of "least concern" according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List, and their population is stable.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Much of Eastern Oklahoma, including most of Tulsa, remains an Indian reservation, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday. JustTulsa / CC BY 2.0

Much of Eastern Oklahoma, including most of Tulsa, remains an Indian reservation, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.

Read More Show Less
The Firefly Watch project is among the options for aspiring citizen scientists to join. Mike Lewinski / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 2.0

By Tiffany Means

Summer and fall are great seasons to enjoy the outdoors. But if you're already spending extra time outside because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be out of ideas on how to make fresh-air activities feel special. Here are a few suggestions to keep both adults and children entertained and educated in the months ahead, many of which can be done from the comfort of one's home or backyard.

Read More Show Less
People sit at the bar of a restaurant in Austin, Texas, on June 26, 2020. Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered bars to be closed by noon on June 26 and for restaurants to be reduced to 50% occupancy. Coronavirus cases in Texas spiked after being one of the first states to begin reopening. SERGIO FLORES / AFP via Getty Images

The coronavirus may linger in the air in crowded indoor spaces, spreading from one person to the next, the World Health Organization acknowledged on Thursday, as The New York Times reported. The announcement came just days after 239 scientists wrote a letter urging the WHO to consider that the novel coronavirus is lingering in indoor spaces and infecting people, as EcoWatch reported.

Read More Show Less
A never-before-documented frog species has been discovered in the Peruvian highlands and named Phrynopus remotum. Germán Chávez

By Angela Nicoletti

The eastern slopes of the Andes Mountains in central Perú are among the most remote places in the world.

Read More Show Less
Left: Lemurs in Madagascar on March 30, 2017. Mathias Appel / Flickr. Right: A North Atlantic right whale mother and calf. National Marine Fisheries Service

A new analysis by scientists at the Swiss-based International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) found that lemurs and the North Atlantic right whale are on the brink of extinction.

Read More Show Less
Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular. Colin Dunn / Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Julia Vergin

It is undisputed that vitamin D plays a role everywhere in the body and performs important functions. A severe vitamin D deficiency, which can occur at a level of 12 nanograms per milliliter of blood or less, leads to severe and painful bone deformations known as rickets in infants and young children and osteomalacia in adults. Unfortunately, this is where the scientific consensus ends.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Data from a scientist measuring macroalgal communities in rocky shores in the Argentinean Patagonia would be added to the new system. Patricia Miloslavich / University of Delaware

Ocean scientists have been busy creating a global network to understand and measure changes in ocean life. The system will aggregate data from the oceans, climate and human activity to better inform sustainable marine management practices.

EcoWatch sat down with some of the scientists spearheading the collaboration to learn more.

Read More Show Less