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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The Center for Biological Diversity sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Thursday in an attempt to protect a snake that resides in the Sunshine State.
The lawsuit aims to add the southern hognose snake to the Endangered Species Act after the species saw a large decline in population over the years.
The southern hognose snake, known for its unique, upturned snouts has experienced population declines of at least 60%, according to a press release.
“The southern hognose snake is in desperate need of protection to avoid extinction,” Chelsea Stewart-Fusek, an endangered species attorney at the Center, said in a statement. “The Trump administration ignored the science when it decided not to protect these snakes. The Service has to correct its errors if this unique species is ever going to recover.”
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, it’s estimated that around 75% of the snake’s population could soon be lost and none of the remaining populations could be resilient. It was reported that the species has already disappeared from Alabama and Mississippi.
Aside from Florida, the southern hognose snake makes several other states its home, including Georgia, and both North and South Carolina. The species thrives best in a longleaf pine ecosystem, also known as a fire-dependent forest habitat.
This type of habitat once covered 92 million acres in the Atlantic and Gulf Coast regions, but multiple factors have led to the pine forests’ depletion over the years.
By the 21st century, 97% of longleaf pine forests had been lost due to forest clearing and fire suppression. Threats such as urban expansion, sea-level rise, and red imported fire ants are expected to cause significant declines in the snakes in the future, according to reports.
“Southern hognose snakes have developed some really neat adaptations to survive, like digging burrows,” said Stewart-Fusek. “They’re harmless to humans, and when threatened by a predator they freeze in place or play dead. But sadly the impressive adaptations that helped these little snakes survive for millions of years are no match for the human-caused threats they face today.”
The hognose snakes’ remaining populations are threatened by several factors, including habitat loss, urbanization, climate change, collisions with vehicles, invasive species, disease, human persecution, and collection for the pet trade.