Rare rainbow snake spotted in Florida forest for the first time since 1969

Jordan Culver
Walton Sun
Walton Sun

In a state constantly dealing with animals it wants gone — like pythons and green iguanas — someone found something rare.

A Florida hiker discovered a rainbow snake (Farancia erytrogramma) last week in Ocala National Forest, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Wildlife Research Institute.

It's the first time a rainbow snake has been spotted in Florida's Marion County since 1969, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History.

The snake, also known as an "eel moccasin," specializes in eating eels. According to FWC, it is rarely seen, even by those who study reptiles and amphibians "due to their cryptic habits."

The rainbow snake can be found, "throughout the panhandle and northern peninsula, south along the St. John's River to northern central Florida," according to the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Rainbow snakes are harmless (nonvenomous), according to the museum. The snake can press a pointed tail tip into a person's hand if it is captured, but "the tail is totally harmless and cannot sting or even break the skin," the museum wrote in a post about the snake.

The snake has occasionally been seen crossing the road at night during or after heavy rains, according to the museum.

"It is aquatic and a good burrower," according to the Florida Museum of Natural History. "It spends much of its life under floating vegetation and within banks on water's edges. It has been found under shoreline debris including Spanish moss and logs."

This story originally published to floridatoday.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the new Gannett Media network.