A snake in Paradise: Alien Invasion


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In Gran Canaria 3,032 Californian King snakes have been captured since 2008, which is when their existence within the Gran Canaria natural environment was first detected. Previous studies suggest that this number may not even be 1% of the actual population.  Harmless to humans, this invasive species presents a threat to the survival of the native Canarian lizard, a unique and indigenous species. Since first identified, this alien species have been consistently spotted in the wild across the north of the island. In 2014 , 686 snakes were captured and so far in 2015, 404 snakes, suggesting an increasing population, left to prey on the lizards who have few other natural enemies here.

Their arrival on Gran Canaria, and subsequent introduction to the wild, was anthropogenic, namely as a result of human activity, and thanks to their great capacity for adaptation and colonization as well as having no natural predators on the island, the Californian King Snake population has flourished and their numbers increased year on year without hindrance on this subtropical paradise.

One of the factors that alerted the biologists to human irresponsibility being at the root of this invasion was that the first snakes recognised were albinos, highly prized by breeders and pet stores because they are so unusual in the wild, within its natural habitat, around the arid landscapes of California.  The first specimens discovered here however were all albino, suggesting fairly unequivocally that it was humans who brought them here, and who were ultimately responsible for their introduction into the wild.

A project was put in force 1 September 2011, financed by the LIFE program of the European Union, the Cabildo de Gran Canaria, the Canary Islands Government and Gesplan (the regional environmental protection agency). Their four year mission, with over €1 million budget, was called the Project  Life + Lampropeltis, and aims to control and reduce the population, raise awareness and encourage involvement,  providing relevant public authorities with information and tools for managing and preventing these snakes from gaining a foothold within local island habitats. The project work, directed by Ramón Gallo, has been carried out in Telde, Valsequillo and Gáldar, although individual specimens have been spotted in other parts of Gran Canaria. Previously finds have been limited to the north and east of the island, but in 2015, at least 4 snakes have been found in the area of Montaña la Data, on the south of Gran Canaria

It is acknowledged that a total eradication of the California king snake will now be “very difficult” if not totally impossible.


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California Kingsnake

The California Kingsnake (Lampropeltis californiae) is among the most common snakes in North America, and very popular amongst people who keep this type of animal as a pet. They are generally shy animals, docile and non-poisonous. Lampropeltis can have different coloured patterns, an alternating banded or striped pattern. In nature, the colour pattern is black with white or cream-coloured bands. There are actually more than 70 recurring patterns and colour combinations, but many of these basic patterns are extremely variable within their own parameters.

Californian snake

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SPECIES, HABITATS AND BIODIVERSITY. The diet of this species is quite varied, including rodents, small mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and even eggs. They detect prey by sensing movement and smell, looking for them along the ground, under rocks and bushes. Generally, they capture and swallow their prey alive, using two methods: pushing their victims against rocks or walls of a burrow to immobilize them, or by constriction, coiling themselves around their prey, causing death by suffocation. The Kingsnake is oviparous (as in they lay eggs) and the size of the egg clutch usually ranges from 3-24, after a gestation period of between 45 to 65 days post-mating. Sexual maturity is reached at age 2.

This means we now have at least 5 generations of this species, previously unknown in the canary islands, that are breeding exponentially.

What to do if you spot a snake (dead or alive) in the natural environment! snakesapp

There is an app called Lampropeltis you can download from Google play or Apple store. http://www.lifelampropeltis.es/index.php/colabora or by directly contacting local government authorities (CECOPIN) Telephone +34 (928) 353 443

If you spot a snake in the Telde, Valsequillo, Santa Brígida or San Mateo areas you can also contact the project by calling mobile number +34 608 098 296 or if the sighting was made in Gáldar, call +34 645 041 733.



Source: Video: Seven years to end 3032 California real snakes – News – News RTVC.es