Teaching a child not to step on a caterpillar is as valuable to the child as it is to the caterpillar. ~Bradley Millar

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Louisiana Pine Snake - Rare, Weird Snake of Louisiana

I was just scrambling around the web, looking for some amazing facts about animals. I chanced to stumble upon something that can raise a few eye brows. A bit too weird, rare and imperiled, this snake had been discovered in Luisiana. Yes, the Louisiana pine snake (Pituophis ruthveni) in amongst the rarest snakes in America, though they are found in mass in the well managed 12,000-hectare timberland in Bienville Parish, Louisiana. Now the question is how did such an endangered species could manage to thrive well amidst the wood for long? This shows a hope of light at the end of the trench and scientists tend to make more researches for managing the forest more effectively so as to preserve such endangered species!

This really sounds cool! The Louisiana pine snake had been one of the most amazing reptiles in some parts of eastern Texas and Louisiana. Old-timers in these parts of the country recalled incidences of meeting with a 1.5- to 1.8-meter long colorful reptile that they used to call "Bull Snake". According to them the snake use to draw itself straight up off the ground when approached the snake often draws itself up off the ground when approached, menacing with severe hiss and warranting painful bites - though non-poisonous. Long after the snake was last seen, that it was viewed again during the fag end of 2004. From much of its original range this amazing reptile had disappeared to a great extent. Steve Reichling, a biologist and curator at Memphis Zoo, Tennessee, said that it had been a contender for the title of most endangered snake in the US. He also said, "This is a five- or six-foot snake that's diurnal (active in daylight hours) and should be relatively easy to find. Yet it's known by only about 250 documented scientific specimens since it was described in 1929."

This rare snake is seen only in the six isolated islands that are mostly in Louisiana, although some of them are in Texas. However, the largest habitat of this endangered snake is by far the Bienville Parish timber property, which is managed by
the International Paper company. According to Reichling, ten snakes have been caught in the wild since April 1st 2006 so far. He added, "That's an amazing abundance for this species."

One most significant point that the researchers and herpetologists noted was that much of scarcity of the Louisiana pine snake has been attributed to the loss of its natural habitat - the sandy-soil and longleaf-pine-forest. According to them the wanton logging, agricultural and real estate development are solely responsible for eliminating of the ecosystem from that region. Long span of fire-suppression activities have also contributed greatly in diminishing the natural habitat of this endangered variety of snake. The old-timers said that they used to find these weird snakes during '30s and '40s, but haven't seen them crawling around in the wild in last three decades. Reichling said "The younger people have no clue that there's such a weird snake in their midst. I try to tell them, 'You're sitting on a snake that's only found here.' It has been lost to their memory in just a couple generations."

After a great deal of research for a long span of time, Steve Reichling came up with a stud book for the Pine Snake in the year 1992. He talked about the the natural history and wrote reviews on the present condition of this amazing creature.

Appearance, Nature and Behavior

Not much is known about this rare snake. The Louisiana pine snake is amongst the most impressive specimens of serpents, with buff to yellowish background. Dark brown markings near head and brown to russet markings near the tail tend to add to the beauty of the snake. Although insofar the size goes they are almost the same as the other Pine Snakes, but according to many herpetologists that are far more gorgeous than other Pine Snakes. The Louisiana pine snakes have attractive blotches that are usually some shade brown or reddish-brown. These large serpent are really magnificent and feed on rodents in the wild. Cool if not threatened, these rare snake become aggressive if approached. They tend to behave quite wildly with menacingly hissing sound raising itself off the ground straight way!

The rare pine snake has already been enlisted as the most threatened species in Texas. It has been marked as one of the most endangered species that has come into the conservation concern in Louisiana. Collaborating with other scientists, Rudolph researched out certain other factors that has contributed a lot in the decline of the Louisiana pine snake population. With the largest eggs of any U.S. snake, a Louisiana pine snake produces only 3 to 5 eggs per clutch at the most. This low reproductive rate of the Louisiana pine snake means that the species may not recover as quickly as it should.
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