Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, October 13, 2022


Elise Bennett, (727) 755-6950,

Two South Florida Snakes Proposed for Endangered Species Act Protections

Urban Sprawl, Sea-Level Rise Threaten Both Species

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.— In response to a petition and lawsuit from the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed today to list the Key ringneck snake and Rim Rock crowned snake as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The Service also proposed to protect 2,604 acres and 5,972 acres of critical habitat for the ringneck and crowned snake, respectively.

“I’m relieved these beautiful little snakes are finally on their way to getting the protections they so badly need,” said Elise Bennett, Florida director at the Center. “The places where they live are rapidly disappearing before our eyes, so protecting every inch of what remains is critical to securing their future.”

Both snakes face existential threats from urban sprawl and sea-level rise fueled by climate change, along with malicious killing by humans and predation by invasive species like fire ants. Pine rockland habitat, where both species live, has already been reduced by 98%, leaving behind only fragmented pockets.

In the protection decision, the Service projected that virtually no habitat for either species is forecasted to remain in the lower Florida Keys by 2080.

Named after the Miami Rim Rock geological formation, the small, nonvenomous Rim Rock crowned snake grows up to 10 inches long. It lives in critically endangered pine rockland and tropical hardwood forests around Miami and the Florida Keys, where it can be found hiding in holes and depressions in limestone rock.

Similarly small and nonvenomous, the Key ringneck snake grows to be approximately 6 inches long. It is slate gray with a yellow to red belly, with a muted or entirely missing orange neck ring. The Key ringneck lives only in the Florida Keys.

The protection decisions follow a Center legal victory in which the Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to make a protection decision for the snakes by the end of fiscal year 2022, which recently ended.

The Center petitioned in 2012 to list the Key ringneck snake and Rim Rock crowned snake under the Endangered Species Act. The petition, which also sought protections for dozens of other rare and imperiled reptiles and amphibians, was joined by several renowned scientists and herpetologists, including E.O. Wilson, Thomas Lovejoy and Michael Lannoo.

Like so many other species that have been made to wait decades for protection, the Key ringneck snake was first identified as needing protection in 1982. A study released this week found that plants and animals have had to wait too long for protection, leaving them with very small populations at the time of protections and making recovery more difficult.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service definitely needs more money to protect species, but it also needs to streamline its process for making protection decisions,” said Bennett. “There’s no reason the little Key ringneck snake should have waited 40 years for protection.”

Key Ringneck Snake, Diadophis punctatus acricus. Kenneth Krysko, copyright.
RSRim_Rock_Crown_Snake_ Tantilla_oolitica_C_Kenneth_Krysko_FPWC-hpr
Rim Rock Crown Snake, Tantilla oolitica. Kenneth Krysko, copyright.

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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