The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) declared in October that the South Florida rainbow snake (Farancia erytrogramma seminola) is extinct, but the Center for Biological Diversity and the Center for Snake Conservation think otherwise, and have put up a $500 reward to the first person who can document that the snake is not extinct.
Cameron Young, executive director of the Center for Snake Conservation said in a press release that declaring the snake extinct without adequate research is scientifically irresponsible. Young hopes that in offering a reward for valid documentation that the snake is not extinct, the proof will spur conservation efforts to ensure that the reptile survives into the future, and hopefully be returned onto the Endangered Species List.
The center says that USFWS declared the reptile extinct without conducting any focused surveys on the animal in its native habitat in spite of anecdotal evidence that the snake is eating eels in the Fisheating Creek area. By declaring the snake extinct, the species is no longer afforded protections under the Endangered Species Act.
The South Florida rainbow snake is an elusive species that is rarely seen in its native habitat, which is the Fisheating Creek area in Glades County, Florida. It is known from just three specimens, the last which was collected in 1952. Little is known about the snake, though it is believed to be entirely aquatic and active only at night and feeds exclusively on the American eel. There were unconfirmed sightings of the snake in the late 1980s, but no sightings since.
The Center for Snake Conservation does plan to survey Fisheating Creek in 2012 in an attempt to locate a specimen of the snake. The center is currently working on an action plan as well as a budget for the survey, which is expected to also involve experts on aquatic snakes.