November 27, 2014 Alex Heber
There’s concern this morning that a pregnant American corn snake is on the loose in Queensland, Australia, and a search is being mounted to find it before she gives birth.
Sunshine Coast snake catcher Ritchie Gilbert told Business Insider he was sent a number of photos from a local vet to help identify the snake on Wednesday.
The snake was spotted in an elderly couple’s backyard two days ago. Gilbert said a carer saw the snake and didn’t recognise it so decided to photograph it for identification.
“One of the photos showed that she was a gravid, which is a pregnant female,” Gilbert said.
“Given the state she was in, in one of the photos, she was lying on her side which is what pregnant snakes do before they drop their eggs.”
Gilbert estimated the snake will lay the eggs “within a week or two” and once that happens it’s very difficult to locate them as snakes are “generally pretty good at hiding the eggs”.
He said while the snake isn’t venomous it does need to be located. Like rabbits or cane toads, introduced species can throw the natural environment off balance, causing problems for native wildlife and agriculture.
“The problem with that is she’s a grade one bio security threat. They eat a lot of native wildlife and like any introduced species they are a threat,” he said.
Corn snakes are native of the southeastern and central United States, and they are extremely popular with snake traders because of their harmless to humans and simple diet. The fact that they normally eat small rabbits and rats makes it easier to look after them at home.
Australia, being an island continent, has an eco-system that is especially vulnerable to shocks from the introduction of foreign flora and fauna. It’s the reason that the country has such strict quarantine procedures at its airports – a foreign insect or egg that stows away in a holidaymaker’s luggage could wreak havoc on the environment if it makes it into the wild and multiplies.
Gilbert said the snake is quite valuable and there could be someone out there trying to get it back.
“I have no idea how people smuggle them in but there’s an illegal black market breeding program going on and it seems to be going on all the time,” he said.
“A baby can be sold for about $800. The snake could be worth $24,000 if she has 30 eggs,” he estimated.
Gilbert said he has contacted bio security authorities in Queensland to help investigate.
A spokesperson for the agency said they are investigating the threat now and will have a comment shortly.
Gilbert posted this on Facebook overnight:
IMPORTANT!! I NEED YOUR HELP!!! If you know someone who lives in the Warana/Kawana/Bokarina area then please share this post. This snake is not native and poses a huge threat to our local wildlife. It is a Gravid(pregnant) American Corn Snake. It was seen yesterday in Kawana and sent to me today for identification. I have contacted Bio Security who are taking this very seriously. We MUST find this snake before she lays the eggs (up to 30) somewhere. If you have seen or know a…nything about this snake please call me ASAP on 0409536000. If it has escaped someone’s illegal collection then there might also be a male snake on the lose too. Please share this post and also look in your yards often if you live in the area. It is not venomous but is classed as a class 1 category pest. I will be knocking on doors tonight in the area. Thanks for your help. Richie. 0409536000.
This article originally appeared at Business Insider Australia. Copyright 2014.
That’s a bad snake alright – kill one and it’s a $7,500 fine and 18 months in jail – better to let it bite you and hope you survive otherwise a great business venture if you want to take the risk – too risky for yours truly. Anyway I hope they find it.