Rare Snake Found by Biologists Near Gila River; Will Breed More to Restore Population
By Julie S | Jul 06, 2013 09:51 PM EDT
The myth that the northern Mexican garter snake is already extinct may not be true anymore. After finding a total of six snakes in June, biologists from the Albuquerque BioPark confirmed that the snakes are back.
Three of the snakes were found near the Gila River at the early days of June while the other three were found in the latter part of the month. A pair of the captured snakes was studied, labeled, and released. The remainder of the six snakes were taken to the Albuquerque Zoo to take part in the park’s breeding population experiment. The experiment aims to produce offsprings that would later on be released to the wild’s protected habitat.
Doug Hotle, BioPark’s curator of amphibians and reptiles, had noticed that one of the captured snakes was a young female. He later on described the snakes as species that belong to a very successful snake group that thrive on an ideal wetland location. He suggested that there was a need to understand the rare species better and find out what they really want by conducting an on-the-ground study in New Mexico.
The discovered northern Mexican garter snake has been listed as a possible candidate to receive federal protection for endangered species. It was believed to be sprawled all over Arizona, New Mexico’s southwestern side, and some parts of Mexico. Scientists had sworn that the last sighting of the snake occurred almost 20 years ago in New Mexico. The recent discovery is indeed a turning event for the team of Hotle.
"We have spent nearly three years and thousands of man-hours looking for the northern Mexican garter snake," he said in a report published in the BioPark’s website. "Although many have written this species off for the state, we thought it was still here somewhere undetected. This discovery means there is still hope for the species and its habitat."
The northern Mexican garter snake is the rarest type among the seven other types of garter snakes in New Mexico. It only thrives in wetland places that have thick vegetation. They feed on minnows and tadpoles. The snakes’ population had been feared by biologists to face extinction due to the disappearance of the riparian habitats by 90 percent and higher. The habitat has been wildly affected by drought, wildfires, water diversion, and overgrazing. Moreover, the snakes are threatened by bullfrogs and crayfish which feed on young garters.