Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, June 5, 2023


Chelsea Stewart-Fusek, (971) 717-6425,

Legal Victory Gives Southern Hognose Snake Another Chance at Endangered Species Protections

Wrongly Denied Protection, Rare Snake Faces Numerous Threats

WASHINGTON— In a legal victory for the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed today to consider granting Endangered Species Act protections to the southern hognose snake. The species lives in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.

In 2019 the agency wrongly denied the southern hognose snake protection despite population declines of at least 60%. The species has disappeared from Alabama and Mississippi and is considered among the rarest and most threatened snakes in North America.

“I’m thrilled the Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed to reconsider protections for this unique little snake,” said Chelsea Stewart-Fusek, an endangered species attorney at the Center. “It’s critical to safeguard southern hognose snakes and their habitat if they’re going to avoid extinction in the face of rapid urban expansion and climate change. They should have never been denied protection in the first place.”

Southern hognose snakes live in the longleaf pine ecosystem, a fire-dependent forest habitat that once covered 92 million acres in the Atlantic and Gulf Coast regions. By the 21st century, 97% of longleaf pine forests had been lost to forest clearing and fire suppression.

The snakes’ remaining populations are threatened by a number of stressors, including habitat loss, urbanization, climate change, collisions with vehicles, invasive species, disease, human persecution and collection for the pet trade.

The Center petitioned the Service in 2012 to protect the snake. Despite agency scientists predicting that three-quarters of its populations would be lost in the near future, the agency denied protection to the species. Today’s agreement is a result of a lawsuit by the Center and requires the Service to make a new decision by August 2025.

“Time really is essential here and the Fish and Wildlife Service needs to move quickly to protect southern hognose snakes before it’s too late,” said Stewart-Fusek. “This decision is a win but there’s more work to be done to ensure these snakes will still be around for future generations to appreciate.”

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Southern hognose snake photos is available for media use with appropriate credit. Please credit: 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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