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Invasive, nonvenomous snake found here

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POSTED: April 17, 2007 5:00 a.m.
Special to the Courier

One of the world’s most diminutive snakes has made its way into Georgia, becoming the first non-native snake species to establish a population in the state. Biologists from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) confirmed the presence of Brahminy blind snakes at a site in Albany.
The nonvenomous Brahminy blind snake is native to Southeast Asia, and has been present in Florida for years. The burrowing snakes, which grow to a maximum length of seven inches, are often unwittingly transported in potted plants or in shipments of soil and sand.
“Unlike many invasive species, we don’t expect this snake to cause significant ecological problems in Georgia,” WRD Wildlife Biologist John Jensen said. “We will keep records of any other locations where the snake is found to monitor its progress.”
Albany residents Eric McGuire and his son Kyle McGuire found one individual of the species in 2005 and reported it to the local WRD office.
“We have seen the snakes on several occasions while planting in our yard,” Eric McGuire said. “I decided to contact the Wildlife Resources Division because I didn’t recognize the species.”
The recent findings indicate that the blind snakes have established a population, having survived at least two winters in the area.
“The McGuires have been instrumental in helping WRD locate this species,” said Jensen. “We encourage Georgia residents to be on the lookout to report invasive species.”
Other individual specimens have been reported in Georgia in recent years, but the Albany site marks the first known reproducing population.
The Brahminy is the only snake in the eastern United States that is parthenogenic — reproducing via self-fertilization — and all individuals of the species are females. The harmless snakes may resemble earthworms, but earthworms have segmented bodies showing visible rings. Blind snakes are darker, smooth and uniform in thickness.
Georgia has 41 or 42 native snake species — depending on whether the closely related Eastern milk snake and scarlet king snake are counted as separate species.
The Brahminy blind snake prefers loose, sandy soils like those found across the coastal plain of South Georgia. The clay and rocky terrain of the Piedmont could limit the snake’s range if it begins to spread across the state. The snakes feed primarily on eggs and larvae of ants and termites.
While the Brahminy blind snake may not pose a significant threat to Georgia’s ecosystems, its discovery underscores the broadening problem of invasive species in the state.
“Invasive species in general are a major threat to Georgia’s ecosystems, because they compete with native species for food resources and habitat,” said Jensen.
Humans often introduce harmful non-native species to an area by releasing exotic pets such as giant African snails, a popular choice for home aquariums. Pests like the pond-choking hydrilla weed and the voracious plant-eating channeled apple snail can be transported on boats and trailers. Boat owners should wash the hull and trailer before moving their vessel to a different body of water.
Residents who think they have found a Brahminy blind snake should call (478) 994-1438 or send a picture to:
Georgia DNR, Wildlife Resources Division; Attn. John Jensen, 116 Rum Creek Drive, Forsyth, GA 31029
To report other invasive species, call (770) 918-6400. For more information on invasive species, visit www.georgiawildlife.com or visit www.protectyourwaters.net.
 

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