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Snakes, Snakes and More Snakes

This is in response to Jack Monsanto's letter regarding snakes at Nisky and other locations on St. Thomas. The island of St. Thomas is home to two other snakes besides the VI tree boa, and Water Island has an additional snake that is also found on the cays. The small brown ground snake or garter snake Arrhyton exiguum is most commonly encountered on St. Thomas; this snake is no bigger round than a pencil, but sometimes can achieve lengths of a foot and a half. It can often be observed moving through leaf litter or under stones, and is frequently brought in by cats. The blind snake Typhlops richardi is also no bigger than a pencil, and about the same length; this is a secretive snake that lives under ground and is sometimes brought in by cats. Many people confuse this snake with earthworms. The snake on Water Island is the Puerto Rican racer Alsophis portoricensis, and this is a much bigger snake. Interestingly, this snake if threatened will rear up and flatten its neck, looking very much like a cobra. This snake is harmless, but its bite can be somewhat painful! This snake used to be resident on St. Thomas, but it is believed that mongooses were the cause of its disappearance from this island.

The tree boa is unmistakably identified by its triangular head and series of bands down its back. None of the other snakes of the USVI are patterned.

Dr. Renata Platenberg, Reptile Ecologist
St. Thomas

Editor's note: We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to source@viaccess.net.

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