Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, October 2, 2023


Elise Bennett, (727) 755-6950,

Diminutive Florida Snake to Receive Federal Endangered Species Protection

Short-Tailed Snake Threatened by Habitat Destruction, Degradation

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.— Following a 2012 petition and lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed to list the short-tailed snake as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The agency also announced its intent to propose protections for the snake’s critical habitat.

“It’s a relief that these beautiful little snakes are slithering their way toward federal endangered species protection,” said Elise Bennett, Florida and Caribbean director at the Center. “But 11 years is far too long for the Fish and Wildlife Service to have taken to protect these rare and severely threatened snakes. This is yet another example showing why the agency badly needs to be reformed.”

The short-tailed snake is a small, slender snake with a light gray body and brown spots separated by reddish yellow coloring. The snake’s name is inspired by its relatively small tail, which makes up less than 10% of its body. The short-tailed snake has adapted to live primarily underground in sandy upland sandhill, scrub and hammock habitat in central and north Florida. It eats small snakes and lizards.

The short-tailed snake is primarily threated by habitat destruction and degradation from urbanization, agriculture, silviculture and mining. Roads also fragment the snake’s habitat and increase the risk that snakes will be run over by cars.

In the federal notice, the Service found that future losses and fragmentation of the short-tailed snake’s habitat are expected as Florida’s human population grows and development sprawls further into natural areas.

Other threats include climate change, invasive plants and animals, human persecution and predation by nonnative fire ants, cats and dogs. The species is also inherently vulnerable to extinction because it persists only in small, isolated populations.

Protecting a species as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act leads to science-based measures tailored to prevent its extinction. The Act has been successful in saving more than 99% of species placed under its care, despite significant underfunding of the law’s vital measures. However, for the Act to be as effective as possible, the Service must designate critical habitat, Bennett notes.

“Given that the short-tailed snake is mainly threatened by habitat destruction, it’s inexcusable that the agency has put off protecting critical habitat,” said Bennett.

Species with federally protected critical habitat are more than twice as likely to be moving toward recovery than species without it. Federal agencies that fund or permit projects in critical habitat must consult with the Service to ensure habitat is not disrupted or destroyed.

Short-tailed snake. Credit: Kevin Enge / Florida Fish and Wildlife. Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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