by Kyle Sweet, Sanctuary Golf Club Superintendnent
Thanks to the fact that Sanibel Island is nearly 70% protected natural habitat, it probably won’t take too long to see a snake when living on or visiting the island. Snakes may not be a favorite of many, but as documented by Chris Lechowicz, SCCF Herpetologist and Land Manager, it has been many years since a venomous snake has been documented on Sanibel. With this in mind, please observe from a distance and don’t destroy these amazing and important creatures that make up the fabric and eco-balance of the islands.
A snake that just might be confused with the venomous Cottonmouth Snake, is the Mangrove Salt Marsh Snake. This snake is only found in Florida along the Gulf Coast from central Florida to the keys and north up the Atlantic Coast to Brevard County.
It inhabits brackish and saltwater estuaries, salt marshes and tidal mud flats. It is frequently seen in the limbs of mangrove trees, basking just above the water and is active primarily at night.
It’s diet consists of small fish, crabs, shrimp and other invertebrates that are often trapped in pools as the tides shift. The Mangrove Salt Marsh Snake does go in search of fresh water since it can’t drink slat water due to the lack of salt glands to exude unwanted salts. This shift to the fresh water habitat may aid in the identification confusion as this is the home of the Cottonmouth throughout Florida.
The Mangrove Salt Marsh Snake is a common site all around the edges of the golf course. Even after several years of sitings, the variation in color still throws me off. A quick photo and email to Chris Lechowicz at SCCF is what I do and I recommend the same to you. Chris is a wealth of knowledge, ambassador for our wildlife and great educator that will be glad to help.
Cool fact: Mangrove Salt Marsh Snakes have a unique compressed tail that helps propel them through the water, which is also representative of their scientific name, “compressicauda “.