There’s concern this morning that a pregnant American corn snake is on the loose in Queensland and a search is being mounted to find it before she gives birth.
Sunshine Coast snake catcher Ritchie Gilbert told Business Insider he was sent a number of photos from a local vet to help identify the snake on Wednesday.
The snake was spotted in an elderly couple’s backyard two days ago. Gilbert said a carer saw the snake and didn’t recognise it so decided to photograph it for identification.
“One of the photos showed that she was a gravid which is a pregnant female,” Gilbert said.
“Given the state she was in, in one of the photos, she was lying on her side which is what pregnant snakes do before they drop their eggs.”
Gilbert estimated the snake will lay the eggs “within a week or two” and once that happens it’s very difficult to locate them as snakes are “generally pretty good at hiding the eggs”.
He said while the snake isn’t venomous it does need to be located. Like rabbits or cane toads, introduced species can throw the natural environment off balance, causing problems for native wildlife and agriculture.
“The problem with that is she’s a grade one bio security threat. They eat a lot of native wildlife and like any introduced species they are a threat,” he said.
Australia, being an island continent, has an eco-system that is especially vulnerable to shocks from the introduction of foreign flora and fauna. It’s the reason that the country has such strict quarantine procedures at its airports – a foreign insect or egg that stows away in a holidaymaker’s luggage could wreak havoc on the environment if it makes it into the wild and multiplies.
Gilbert said the snake is quite valuable and there could be someone out there trying to get it back.
“I have no idea how people smuggle them in but there’s an illegal black market breeding program going on and it seems to be going on all the time,” he said.
“A baby can be sold for about $800. The snake could be worth $24,000 if she has 30 eggs,” he estimated.
Gilbert said he has contacted bio security authorities in Queensland to help investigate.
A spokesperson for the agency said they are investigating the threat now and will have a comment shortly.
Gilbert posted this on Facebook overnight.