Press Release
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes Listing and Critical Habitat for Two Florida Snakes 
Public comment sought on the proposal  
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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to list the Key ring-necked snake and the rim rock crowned snake as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and establishing critical habitat for them. The Service invites public comments on the proposed decision until Dec. 13, 2022.  

“These snakes need our help, as they face the threat of extinction throughout their range,” said Regional Director Leopoldo Miranda-Castro. “Listing these species under the ESA will inspire partnerships to protect them and the rare ecosystems in the Keys where they dwell.” 

Found on seven Florida Keys (Key West, Big Pine Key, Little Torch Key, Middle Torch Key, No Name Key, Cudjoe Key, and Stock Island) in Monroe County, Florida, the Key ring-necked snake occurs within limestone substrate and outcroppings in pine rocklands and rockland hammock habitats. Populations of this snake are currently in danger of extinction throughout all of its range from rising seas and saltwater intrusion, leading the Service to propose listing as an endangered species. 

The rim rock crowned snake also inhabits limestone substrate and outcroppings in pine rocklands and rockland hammock habitats and is found in the Florida Keys, including Key West and Big Pine Key, the upper Florida Keys, and the southeastern Florida peninsula within Miami-Dade County, Florida. While populations of rim rock crowned snake in Miami-Dade county are currently stable, populations in the Florida Keys are currently in danger of extinction from rising seas and saltwater intrusion. Development, fire suppression, and increasingly severe and frequent storms compound that threat. With the species being in danger of extinction in a significant portion of its range (the Florida Keys), the Service is proposing to list the species as endangered throughout its entire range. 

The Service is proposing to designate 2,604 acres of land in four units within the lower Florida Keys of Monroe County, Florida, as critical habitat for the Key ring-necked snake. The proposed critical habitat overlaps with designated critical habitat for the Bartram’s scrub hairstreak and Florida leafwing butterflies, Cape Sable thoroughwort, Florida semaphore cactus, and silver rice rat. 

The proposed critical habitat for the rim rock crowned snake consists of 5,972 acres across 11 units within Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties, Florida. The proposed critical habitat overlaps with designated critical habitat for the American crocodile, Bartram’s scrub hairstreak and Florida leafwing butterflies, Carter’s small-flowered flax, Cape Sable thoroughwort, Florida brickell-bush, Florida semaphore cactus, Garber’s spurge, Key tree cactus, and West Indian manatee. Of the 11 proposed units, nine units are considered occupied within Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties and two units within Miami-Dade County are considered unoccupied. The Service determined the unoccupied units are essential because including only occupied areas would be inadequate to ensure the conservation of the species.

Designating critical habitat under the ESA does not affect private landowners unless they implement an action involving federal funds, permits or activities. It does not affect land ownership or establish a refuge, wilderness, reserve, preserve or other conservation area conservation area
A conservation area or wildlife management area is a type of national wildlife refuge that consists primarily or entirely of conservation easements on private lands. These conservation easements support private landowner efforts to protect important habitat for fish and wildlife. There are 13 conservation areas and nine wildlife management areas in the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Learn more about conservation area
, nor does it allow the government or public to access private lands.

See the storymap with interactive maps showing the proposed critical habitat.

More information is available about the Key ringed-neck and rim rock crowned snakes inour Frequently Asked Questions. 

The Service will accept comments received or postmarked on or before Dec. 13, 2022.  Submit comments by going to the Federal eRulemaking Portal and enter FWS-R4-ES-2022-0022, which is the docket number for this rulemaking. Comments submitted electronically must be received by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time. The agency must receive requests for public hearings in writing, at the address shown below by Nov. 28, 2022. 

For further information contact Lourdes Mena, Classification and Recovery Division Manager, 904-731-3134, Florida Ecological Services Office, 7915 Baymeadows Way, Suite 200, Jacksonville, FL 32256-7517.  Persons who use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Relay Service at 800–877–8339.   

Story Tags

Endangered and/or Threatened species