Elusive rainbow snake spotted in Florida national forest for first time in 50 years, experts say
Tracey Cauthen stumbled upon the 4-foot rainbow snake (farancia erytrogramma) during a hike at Ocala National Forest in Marion County, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) research institute wrote on Facebook.
Pictures show the reptile’s iridescent blue-black scales with stripes of red and pink along its sides and yellow streaks closer to its belly.
Cauthen’s find marked the first recorded sighting of the snake in Marion County since 1969, the Florida Museum of Natural History confirmed to the FWC.
The nonvenomous species is a highly-aquatic snake, and is also referred to as an “eel moccasin” after its penchant for eating eel, the agency said. The serpents live much of their lives hidden under floating vegetation and burrowing near creeks, lakes, marshes and tidal flats.
This subterranean behavior makes the species an uncommon sight, even for herpetologists, those who study amphibians and reptiles, the agency said.
FWC biologists believe this snake made a rare appearance because a recent drawdown of the Rodman Reservoir forced it out of its normal habitat.
Adult rainbow snakes can grow between 40 to 50 inches, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History. If captured, the snake might retaliate using its pointed tail. But experts say the tail is harmless and cannot break the skin on a human hand.
While the snake can be found along the coast from Louisiana to Maryland, most sightings in Florida occur throughout the Panhandle and northern peninsula, according to the museum.