An Albino Snake Is Plaguing the Canary Islands

There are as many as thousands per square mile ... underground

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 28, 2014 7:37 AM CDT | Updated May 3, 2014 7:00 PM CDT

(Newser) – Pet snakes have led to big problems in the Canary Islands, quite literally: Biologists say an albino variety of California kingsnake, bred in captivity in San Diego, is now obliterating native animal populations after some of the snakes came to the islands as pets and escaped. The snakes are 30% bigger than their California equivalents, and their size isn't the only thing booming: Free of natural predators, their population now numbers in the thousands per square mile in some areas of the Spanish archipelago, where native species, not programmed to fear snakes, haven't been able to adapt in the short window since the snakes started causing issues, in roughly 2007, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Experts from the US are headed to the islands, northwest of Africa, to help scientists and government officials figure out a game plan. So far, dogs and hawks have been set on the snakes, to little effect: The species spends much of its time underground. Fewer than 2,000 of the snakes have been snared so far on the surface, and one expert offers this unpleasant thought: "The fact that you're removing hundreds of visible snakes means, unfortunately, that it is likely that there are many, many thousands more out there you can't see." What to do? One expert suggests plowing up infested areas. (Guam is also battling snakes, using Tylenol-filled dead mice.)

An albino California kingsnake
An albino California kingsnake   (Flickr via Wikimedia Commons)
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