Florida Keys

‘Imperiled’ Keys animals getting new action plans

The Key ringneck snake, a reptile found only in Lower Keys rockland hammocks, ranks as one of 57 imperiled species targeted by a state conservation plan.
The Key ringneck snake, a reptile found only in Lower Keys rockland hammocks, ranks as one of 57 imperiled species targeted by a state conservation plan.

The Florida Keys are home to 23 of 57 Florida animal species covered on the state's Imperiled Species Management Plan.

The Keys list, considered last week by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, includes the Monroe County population of ospreys among a dozen local bird species, several types of nonvenomous Lower Keys snakes, two tiny saltwater fish, a tree snail and pillar coral.

"This is an exciting and groundbreaking strategy with science working the way it should," Audubon Florida conservation director Julie Wraithmell told FWC members meeting in Panama City Beach. "We are excited to see a tailor-made plan that will fit each species like a glove."

The Imperiled Species Plan was first approved in 2010 and is being updated for 2016.

"The plan combines managing the specific needs of 57 imperiled species with a new, larger-scale strategy addressing how to help multiple fish and wildlife species thrive and survive in the habitats they share," according to the agency.

When complete, the plan seeks to better determine populations and needs of the affected species "to conserve these imperiled species for future generations."

Each species is covered by a fact sheet listing concerns.

Ospreys in the Keys and Florida Bay were listed as imperiled due to "an apparent decline of this local, non-migratory population."

"Circumstances that caused the [osprey] decline are not fully understood," says a species report. "There is speculation that the decline in this local osprey population is a symptom of the health of the Everglades ecosystem."

Other Keys birds on the list include the brown pelican, burrowing owl, least tern, little blue heron, reddish egret, roseate spoonbill, snowy egret, tricolored heron, white ibis and white-crowned pigeon.

Isolated islands of the Lower Keys hold several distinct populations of reptiles: striped mud turtle, Florida brown snake, Florida Keys mole skink, Key ringneck snake, peninsula ribbon snake and the red rat snake.

Two tiny prey fish, the key silverside and mangrove rivulus, made the list along with pillar coral and Florida tree snail.

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