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For Immediate Release, August 15, 2011

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

Endangered Species Act Success: Lake Erie Water Snake Recovered

COLUMBUS, Ohio— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced that the Lake Erie water snake has recovered and will be removed from the federal list of endangered and threatened wildlife. The announcement noted that all recovery criteria established in a scientifically based recovery plan had been met, including increased snake numbers, protection of essential habitats and improved public attitudes toward the snake.

“Recovery of the Lake Erie water snake is cause for celebration both for this species and for the Endangered Species Act’s long record of success,” said Collette Adkins Giese, the Center for Biological Diversity’s herpetofauna attorney. “Before its listing under the Act, the snake faced intense human persecution and habitat destruction. Through the reasonable efforts of state and federal agencies and the public, the survival of this once-imperiled species is now assured.”

The Lake Erie water snake is a large, nonvenomous snake mostly found on the offshore islands of western Lake Erie. The snake has benefited from protection under the Endangered Species Act since 1999, when the Service listed the snake as a threatened species. In 2003, the Service prepared and began implementing a recovery plan focused on habitat protection and public education. All of the criteria in the recovery plan have been fully met and, in most cases, substantially exceeded.

“The recovery of the Lake Erie water snake shows that the Endangered Species Act works,” said Adkins Giese. “Protections under this landmark law have been essential in reversing the trend toward extinction for so many of our nation’s most imperiled species of wildlife and plants.” 

Opponents of the Endangered Species Act have frequently criticized the law for recovering too few species. Addressing all the threats that cause species endangerment can be a slow process, but today’s success shows that the Endangered Species Act is working to recover species.

The Lake Erie water snake is a subspecies of northern water snake that is uniformly gray or brown, without prominent banding patterns. It lives on rocky shorelines with limestone or dolomite shelves for sunning and shelter and feeds on the round goby, an invasive and nonnative fish. Its population size has increased dramatically since receiving protection under the Endangered Species Act and now totals approximately 10,000 in the United States.  

Mounting scientific evidence shows that reptiles and amphibians (together called “herpetofauna”) are among the most imperiled species on Earth. Ubiquitous toxins, global warming, nonnative predators, overcollection, habitat destruction and disease are key factors leading to demise of reptiles and amphibians in the United States and worldwide. For more information about the Center’s campaign to stop the herpetofauna extinction crisis, visit

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 320,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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