Rare snake discovered near Gila River

Posted at: 07/05/2013 6:29 PM
By: Joseph Lynch, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Some of the most exciting discoveries are those you never expected to make.

Scientists spent three years looking for a rare snake near the Gila River in southwestern New Mexico, a snake they thought had disappeared from New Mexico 20 years ago. They were wrong.

Herpatologists say the worst drought conditions in New Mexico history contributed to wiping out the northern Mexican gartersnake. Or so they thought.  

"Anytime you think an animal is completely gone from your state and we rediscover or find out that it's still there it's kind of a blessing," said Doug Hotle, the Curator of Reptiles at ABQ BioPark.

According to Hotle, finding this little guy about a month ago was a welcome and a very unexpected discovery.

"This animal belongs to all of us, everyone here in the state of New Mexico. And to question why an animal exists we have to look at nature as a whole. Nature is a very finely tuned machine- and not much gets by in nature if it doesn't have a purpose," Hotle said.

Right now the zoo has two female and two male northern Mexican gartersnakes. They hope to see them reproducing as soon as next year.  Eventually, officials hope  to reintroduce the gartersnakes in places they used to call home, mostly in wetland areas of New Mexico. According to Hotle, it's a great thing.

"Philosophically it gives us a second chance to go back and do the right thing by this species."

The northen Mexico gartersnakes are still in quarantine at the zoo. Zoo officials hope to have them on display in the next few weeks. The snake will likely be placed on the federally endangered species list in the coming months.