Lawsuit Seeks Endangered Species Protections for Colorful Arizona Snake

Lawsuit Seeks Endangered Species Protections for Colorful Arizona Snake

TUCSON, Ariz.— The Center for Biological Diversity sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today for denying Endangered Species Act protections to the Tucson shovel-nosed snake for a second time. The snakes live only in a small area of southern Arizona.

“These sand-swimming snakes need federal protection because reckless development in Tucson and Phoenix is just gobbling up their habitat,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center. “To save the Tucson shovel-nosed snake we have to save the beautiful Sonoran Desert too.”

Following a 2004 petition and subsequent litigation by the Center, the Service found in 2010 that the snake warranted protection but failed to provide it. In 2014 the agency reversed course and found the snake didn’t warrant protection. In 2020 the Center again petitioned the Service to protect the snake and provided new information showing that it was severely threatened by development. The Service also denied the second petition.

A recent study found that the snake has already lost 39% of its historic habitat to agriculture and urban development. The vast majority of its remaining habitat is unprotected and vulnerable to development.

“This is one of the many, many obviously imperiled species the Service has wrongly chosen not to protect,” said Greenwald. “The Biden administration has shied away from reforming the Fish and Wildlife Service. It’s time for Biden officials to take bold actions to protect these irreplaceable species before it’s too late.”

The Tucson shovel-nosed snake has vivid alternating black and red stripes over a cream-colored body. Its small range is limited to portions of Pima, Pinal and Maricopa counties in an area sometimes referred to as the “the Sun Corridor Megapolitan” due to its rapid urbanization. The snake only lives on flat valley bottoms that are prime areas for development.

This article was first published by The Center for Biological Diversity on 23 June 2022. Lead Image: Tucson shovel-nosed snake. Credit: USGS.

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