Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, November 14, 2022


Chelsea Stewart-Fusek, (707) 599-7643,

Lawsuit Launched to Protect Imperiled Southern Hognose Snake

Unique Snake Has Declined by 60%, Faces Numerous Threats

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal notice today of its intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for denying Endangered Species Act protections to the southern hognose snake. The species lives in coastal plain habitat in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. It used to also be found in Alabama and Mississippi, but populations there have disappeared.

Southern hognose snakes, named “hoggies” by reptile enthusiasts for their upturned noses used for digging, have experienced a 60% population decline. The snake is threatened by habitat loss, urbanization, climate change, collisions with vehicles, invasive species, disease, human persecution and collection for the pet trade. The Service projects that by 2060 about 72% of southern hognose snake populations will be extinct, and no resilient populations will remain.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service ignored its own science when it decided not to protect the southern hognose snake,” said Chelsea Stewart-Fusek, an endangered species attorney at the Center. “These neat little snakes simply can’t adapt quickly enough to recover from the many threats they face. If the agency doesn’t protect this species now, we’re setting these animals on the path to extinction.”

The southern hognose snake lives in longleaf pine savanna, a fire-dependent ecosystem that once covered an estimated 92 million acres in the Atlantic and Gulf Coast regions. By the 21st century, because of forest clearing and fire suppression, longleaf pine forests covered less than 3 million acres. Threats like urban expansion and climate change-driven sea-level rise are expected to cause significant southern hognose snake declines in the future.

The Center’s notice follows an October study that found that most species are not protected under the Endangered Species Act until they reach dangerously low population sizes — a key factor in instances where species struggle to recover.

“The Endangered Species Act is very good at protecting animals and plants that actually make it on the list, but far too often the Service drags its feet, failing to protect species like the southern hognose snake until they’re nearly extinct,” said Stewart-Fusek. “If we want a real chance at recovering this species, it needs protection now.”

RSsouthern-hognose-snake_crop_Pierson_Hill_Florida_Fish_and_Wildlife_Commission_FPWC copy
Southern hognose snake. Credit: Patrick Pierson Hill, FWC. 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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