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Help SCCF Document Rough Green Snake Recolonization

March 24, 2022

SCCF’s Wildlife & Habitat Management Program keeps records of extant and extirpated wildlife species on the island. Typically, exotic are species reported as new. However, on rare occasion, a native species has gone undetected or moves to the island from the adjacent mainland. SCCF is asking residents and visitors to help us document rough green snake sightings.

The nonvenomous rough green snake (Opheodrys aestivus) is a small (typically up to 33 inches long) snake that is primarily arboreal, living in heavily leafed shrubs in edge habitats. They are lime green on the dorsal (top) side and yellow on the ventral (bottom) side. In other areas, they are often seen sunning on roads or pathways near the tree/shrub line. Although there is no proof that rough green snakes occurred on Sanibel, it is likely that they were here at some point in Sanibel’s 6,000-year history. Historically, they were a common species on the mainland adjacent to Sanibel. Development and insecticides are likely the leading causes of their decline. We have had five undocumented sightings of this snake over the last 15 years. However, if these undocumented (no verifiable evidence) sightings were accurate, then the likeliness of colonization is highly credible.

Numerous herptile (amphibian and reptile) species have emigrated to Sanibel in the last century, mostly incidentally, with most of them being invasive exotic species, such as the tropical house gecko (Hemidactylus mabouia) and curly-tailed lizards (Leiocephalus carinatus). These colonizations are mostly from individuals stowed on vehicles/ships or on products that are brought to the island, such as plants, mulch, and fill dirt.

There is a great example of a native Sanibel species that disappeared and then reappeared recently. The Eastern glass lizard (Ophisaurus ventralis) is a legless lizard that was last documented in 1959 on Periwinkle Way on the East End. This species was thought to be extirpated on Sanibel until 2012, when one was injured on Island Inn Road. After that, they were seen on Island Inn Road and have been documented further west each year. It is believed that enough specimens of this fossorial species were introduced by way of fill dirt and/or mulch near Island Inn Road to start a population that is clearly reproducing and expanding its range every year.

If you have seen a rough green snake on Sanibel, please let us know. If you see one, please send a picture so we can properly document them. You can email SCCF Wildlife & Habitat Management Director Chris Lechowicz at or call/text him at (239) 222-4268.


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