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Louisiana pine snake (Pituophis ruthveni). Photo Credit: Daniel Saenz
Three Louisiana pine snakes (Pituophis ruthveni), one of the nation's rarest snake species, have been released into Kisatchie National Forest, joining 27 other pine snakes that have been released in the area over the past two years. Native only to Louisiana and Texas, the snake was placed on the list as candidates for Endangered Species status in 2010. It is unknown how many pine snakes are in the wild, but the last documented occurrence in the wild was more than 10 years ago.
The species is currently being kept at 18 zoos for breeding programs. The breeding programs have resulted in 20 hatchlings in 2010 and 14 in 2011. The snakes that will be released are implanted with microchips to track their movements.
Research has indicated that the Louisiana pine snake spends up to 59 percent of its time underground and is most active in the late morning and mid afternoon. They are usually found in sandy and well drained soil areas and open pine forests. Major threats to this species includes forest fire suppression that reduces its microhabitats and that of its main prey, the Baird's pocket gopher (Geomys breviceps), and on and off highway vehicles. Most existing pine snake habitat occurs within 540 yards of existing roads.
The Louisiana pine snake is a constrictor of the Colubridae family. It grows to about 4 to 5 feet in length and feeds on gophers and other small burrowing rodents. Native to Louisiana and Texas, Pituophis ruthveni has a low reproductive rate, producing anywhere from three to five eggs per clutch. Pine snake hatchlings, at 18 to 22 inches, are the largest of any North American colubrid snake.