Searching Volusia for elusive saltmarsh snake

A small subspecies of snake could be making its last stand in the salt marsh fringes that remain scattered along Volusia County’s coast. But no one knows for sure.

Greg Territo, a University of Central Florida grad student, is on a mission to figure out where those Atlantic saltmarsh snakes still live in Volusia County and learn more about them.

The snake may be holding on by the slimmest of margins, after years of habitat destruction, pollution and encroachment by other species, said an official with the federal agency helping to fund Territo’s research.

“No one has ever done a comprehensive survey,” said Bill Brooks, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist. Brooks coordinated a two-year grant for Territo to survey for the snakes and try to figure out its complete distribution and status.

For several days in May, Territo, along with UCF professor Chris Parkinson and a group of about 18 students and volunteers, searched the marshes of Tomoka State Park. They found banded water snakes, but not a single saltmarsh snake.

The search parties put in their kayaks just before sunset and stayed out until midnight or 1 a.m. looking for the snakes. Catching a snake in the water is no easy feat, Territo said.

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