Rare pine snake dies day after capture in Indian River County
By Barbara Yoresh
October 23, 2008
Indian River County Animal Control Officer Ryk Hollenbeck holds this rarely seen 5 1/2-foot Florida pine snake. He captured it Tuesday night near a manufactured home park on U.S. 1 and 99th Street, but it later died from trauma or an illness.
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — A large, rarely seen native snake was captured this week by a county animal control officer following a call from fearful residents living in a manufactured home park near 99th Street and U.S. 1.
But the 5 1/2-foot Florida pine snake suffered trauma or an illness and died Wednesday, said county Animal Control officer Ryk Hollenbeck.
The Florida pine snake is a non-venomous, burrowing species that favors sandy soil pine barren habitats. It’s listed as a “species of special concern” by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and has become more rare as its upland habitats are increasingly altered and fragmented because of development.
Hollenbeck caught the snake Tuesday night and said he had not seen one in three years.
“It’s rare you get to see them due to loss of habitat and they also have a perfect haven underground,” Hollenbeck said. “But when they are seen, too many people mistake them for dangerous and poisonous. But they’re beneficial and keep down the population of rats.
“They should be left alone.”
After capture, Hollenbeck gave the snake to Bruce Dangerfield, animal control officer for the Vero Beach Police Department. Dangerfield, a locally recognized herpetologist, had hoped to use the snake for educational presentations.
Although the snake is becoming rarer in this area, Dangerfield said the biggest local population of Florida pine snakes is in the Vero Lakes Estates area.
“People think they’re rattlers and kill them. They’re patterned and they can get to be as big around as your forearm,” he said. “It’s a shame because they’ll become threatened.
“They do hiss a lot and will bite if picked up, but they kill rats and mice and are good snakes.”
Dangerfield said the snake found Tuesday was lethargic and may have been run over or hit with something.
“They serve a really good purpose and I just wish people would leave them alone. They’re a living mousetrap and can go where the rodents go,” he said. “It’s too bad people are killing our native species.”