The California kingsnake spreading again in the Gran Canaria


Friday, 4 May 2018

Lampropeltis californiae, the California kingsnake, is native to southwestern USA and northwestern Mexico. It has been reported as invasive on the island of Gran Canaria where no native species of snakes existed before. The species introduction was a result of accidental and deliberate releases from pet owners and pet stores.

From 2011 to 2015 the LIFE Project LAMPROPELTIS in Gran Canaria aimed at minimizing the impact of the species on the island’s biodiversity, and specifically on endemic species like Gran Canaria Giant Lizard and Gran Canaria Skink. In the context of the project a Protocol for snake capturing and data gathering and an Early Warning System were prepared, with 5,021 snakes removed from the wild. However, biological controls and management of invasive species are not always easy. In 2018, the species seems making a comeback, spreading in more areas, disquieting citizens, scientists and the local authorities.

Close to 7,000 different species are owned by pet owners across Europe, including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish. Some of these pet species are imported from outside Europe and can potentially cause ecological problems if they escape or are released in the environment. The emblematic case of the California kingsnake is one of the many similar potential threats across Europe. To tackle this problem, the European Commission introduced Council Regulation (EC) 338/97 prohibiting the importation of some invasive alien species. In addition, the Council of Europe designed a voluntary code of conduct to raise awareness within the pet industry and among owners and keepers of pets and provide practical guidance to reduce the chances of pet species becoming invasive in Europe.

Interesting links

European Code of Conduct on Pets and Invasive Alien Species

CABI: Lampropeltis californiae

Aliens: The Invasive Species Bulletin. Newsletter of the IUCN/SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group