Species Profile: Coastal Dunes Crowned Snake (Tantilla relicta pamlica)
The Coastal Dunes Crowned Snake (Tantilla relicta pamlica)
Tantilla relicta pamlica looks just about like any other tantilla; which are typically pretty diminutive and unimpressive snakes themselves, but the Coastal Dunes Crowned Snake is nevertheless a special snake. They are endemic to the southeastern coast of Florida from Brevard to Palm Beach County, unlike the other subspecies Tantilla relicta relicta and T. r. neilli which can be found from the south-central part of the peninsula northward.
Coastal Dunes Crowned Snakes are rarely seen, and anyone who’s visited southeastern Florida can tell you why: only a small part of their range still possesses the scrub, hammock and other habitat they need to survive. Not that this 6-10 inch snake needs much room to survive, but when your home also happens to be the best place on Earth to build a condo; someone’s going suffer – and in this case the animals with limbs and bulldozers win.
Fortunately though, there are some abandoned lots here and there, natural areas and state parks where these and other species hang on, hopefully indefinitely. It is in one of these places where I found a Coastal Dunes Crowned Snake, the last snake taxa I had left to find that is native to my county. I had been hiking and thought to myself how similar the habitat I was in looked to the habitat I find Tantilla in when in central Florida. I mentioned it to my wife and looked under a couple logs here and there. As we continued on, I spied a water spigot that looked like it may have dripped occasionally onto the small concrete slab below it. In the sandy soils of Florida, finding a source of water is objective #1, especially if you’re a small and easily dessicated snake.
Yes; I thought to myself, that slab surely provided the water and centipede prey that Tantilla need to survive. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, such a thought will occur to me and I will flip that rock and it will be completely empty underneath. But one in a hundred times or so; something amazing will happen. Can you guess which happened this time?
Sure enough, a little sandy-colored snake wriggled by and into the sand under the rock. With that, and a few pictures, I was on cloud nine. Granted, a few year ago, I’d think it insane to get excited over such a little thing; but perhaps with some maturity in herping one comes to appreciate the little things. I let the little fellow on his way and continued on my way, happy to know that there’s still room for an tiny, endemic wonder such as Tantilla relicta pamlica.
This post originally appeared on Josh Holbrook’s Field Ventures
Joshua David Holbrook is an ecologist and field herper who enjoys learning of the world’s wonders through reading, time in the field and time with friends and family – occasionally all at once. He has authored a number of studies appearing in academic journals as well as A Field Guide to the Snakes of Southern Florida. He currently attends Florida Atlantic University as a graduate student and works on the Everglades Invasive Reptile and Amphibian Monitoring Program (EIRAMP.) He can be contacted at [email protected]