Stay in the know about wildlife, water quality, and ecosystems on Sanibel and Captiva Islands and in Southwest Florida

Celebrating our Island Snakes on World Snake Day

July 16, 2020

World Snake Day is celebrated every year on July 16 to raise awareness about the different types of snake species and the important role they play in maintaining ecological balance.

Snakes are a very important part of our Sanibel ecosystems. Depending on the species, they prey upon insects, amphibians, fish, lizards, other snakes, rodents, and even some birds. They are also a very important prey item for many animals, especially alligators, several mammals, and birds of prey. Most snakes arrived on Sanibel from crossing the bay on floating mats of vegetation from the Caloosahatchee River or just by swimming, others were stowaways on boats or vehicles.

There are approximately ten snake species currently found on Sanibel. The most common snake is the southern black racer (C. constrictor), pictured here. The highly patterned juveniles are often mistaken for venomous snakes because of their color and ability to vibrate their tails really fast creating a noise up against leaf litter. Sanibel has two ratsnake species, the eastern ratsnake aka yellow ratsnake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis) and the corn snake (Pantherophis guttatas). They are extremely beneficial near homes and businesses as they seek out rodents, such as the exotic black rat aka palm rat (Rattus rattus) to eat.

The Gulf Beach Ridge Zone on the beach is host to the largest extent snake species on the island, the eastern coachwhip snake (Masticophis f. flagellum). They can exceed 7 ft in length and are occasionally seen eating marsh rabbits (Sylvilagus palustris). Smaller snakes often seen in gardens or on pathways are the southern ringneck snake (Diadophis p. punctatus), Florida brownsnake (Storeria victa), peninsula ribbonsnake (Thamnophis sauritus sackenii), and the exotic Brahminy blindsnake (Indotyphlops brahminus). There are also two species of watersnakes on the island. The Florida watersnake (Nerodia fasciata) is found in the freshwater bodies and the mangrove saltmarsh snake (Nerodia c. clarkii) is found in the brackish water in mangrove creeks along the periphery of the island.

There are several species of snakes that have only been spotted on Sanibel only once like the green watersnake (Nerodia floridana) over the last half century or species that are now extirpated (extinct in a localized area) like the eastern indigo snake (Drymachon couperi) and the eastern diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus). Eastern coral snakes (Micrurus f. fulvius), the only other documented venomous snakes known to exist on Sanibel which was last recorded in 2002. Species are considered extirpated on the island after 20 years with no verified sightings.



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