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“Imported Christmas Tree Snake’ Is In Fact Local

The Department of Environmental and Coastal Resources (DECR) stated that a snake being paraded on social medial as being imported into the Turks and Caicos Islands on a Christmas was in fact a local reptile.

According to the DECR, the snake is in fact a striped-phase Turks and Caicos boa Chilabothrus chrysogaster.

The Following is the news release from the DECR regarding the snake:

On Saturday 10 December 2022, the Department of Environment and Coastal Resources (DECR) Research and Development Unit was able to review the photos attached to the social media forward messages about a snake allegedly found in an imported Christmas tree.

Based on the photos attached to the message, the snake pictured was a female striped-phase Turks and Caicos boa Chilabothrus chrysogaster. The snake was not one that would have entered the Turks and Caicos Islands on the Christmas tree. It is a native, harmless snake common throughout the Caicos Islands.

Further to this, the farm origin of the trees was ascertained as North Carolina. There are 38 native species of snakes in North Carolina and none of them fit the colour, size and patterning of the snake in the photographs. The highest temperature in the weeks the trees were shipped was 59°F, below the usual activity temperature of reptiles there. The trees were also inspected and packed in North Carolina prior to shipment, and were certified as free of pests and disease.

The trees were trans-shipped via South Florida, which has 44 native snake species, again none of which match the size, colour, and patterning of the snake in the photographs.

The snake in the photos, being a native boa, was not a dangerous or venomous species.

DECR Director Ms. Lormeka Williams stated, “We are fortunate to have on DECR staff biologists who are both intensely familiar with our native wildlife, and the wildlife of other countries. I was able to concur with the identification, given as I am familiar with our reptilian wildlife myself. It is of course important that we monitor our biosecurity closely, so reports of suspected incursions should always be made to authorities like DECR and Department of Agriculture.”

The DECR reminds the public that the Turks and Caicos boas provide a valuable ecosystem service in rodent control and they do not constitute a threat to humans. In the event it is suspected that a snake or any other animal has arrived into Turks and Caicos Islands through shipping means, it is important to contact the Department of Agriculture or DECR and not attempt to capture or kill the animal. Both departments have staff trained in animal handling to minimize any potential danger.

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