PHOENIX — A snake historically found in most Arizona watersheds but not seen along the Colorado River for more than 100 years has turned up again.
Biologist Michael Lester discovered a northern Mexican garter snake, which was designated as a threatened species in 2014, along the river in 2015, The Arizona Republic reported .
Lester was working as a seasonal technician for a bird research group at Beal Lake on the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge.
“When I got back to our shared housing, I mentioned to my field crew leader, ‘Oh yeah, I saw a garter snake today,’ pretty nonchalantly,” Lester recalled. “She had this look on her face, and she was like, ‘What are you talking about? There are no garter snakes in this area.'”
Jeff Servoss, a herpetologist lead for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s northern Mexican garter snake recovery program, said he doesn’t believe the program is directly responsible for the snake’s apparent re-appearance.
Servoss said he thinks the snake has always been in the area but just “in exceptionally low density.”
Servoss attributed the snake’s frequent re-appearance near Bill Williams River, at least in part, to populations of lowland leopard frogs, a critical prey for the snakes.
“As long as you can promote a leopard frog and keep them as part of your community, there’s a chance you could have success with Mexican gartersnakes (scientists prefer the one-word spelling) as well,” he said.
When the northern Mexican garter snake was listed as threatened in 2014, officials weren’t sure they would ever come across one of the snakes.
Some endangered and threatened species call the river home, and in 2005, the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program was officially launched to protect those species.
Jessica Gwinn, Colorado River coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said it was encouraging to see the progress the Multi-Species Conservation Program had made in its first 10 years.
Regardless of whether the Multi-Species Conservation Program is responsible for the snake’s rediscovery, biologists see the new and improved habitats as the river being used to its full potential.
Information from: The Arizona Republic, http://www.azcentral.com