Gran Canaria is struggling with an infestation of Albino California King snakes.
The snakes, originally brought to the island as pets decades ago, could take over 70% of the island of Gran Canaria according to experts.
Although the snakes do not pose a danger to humans, they are a serious threat to the native bird and lizard population of the popular holiday island destination.
The problem is said to stem from the 1990s when the rare snake became a favourite pet. Many were purchased from breeders in California’s San Diego.
Some of the snakes escaped over the years, and it is believed that others were set free intentionally by their owners after they grew too big.
Over the last decade more than 2,000 snakes have been captured, with 500 caught last year alone. Since 2011, the snakes have been banned on the island.
Due to the fact that there is a lack of natural predators on the island and a climate very similar to the snake’s native California, they began multiplying rapidly.
Experts in the field of invasive species are set to gather on the island this week to talk about possible methods of controlling the situation. They will be considering the behaviour and potential vulnerabilities of the Albino California King snake.
Gran Canaria is currently being assisted by U.S. Geological Survey biologists to try to control the highly adaptive predators which are wreaking havoc on the islands’ ecosystems.
Robert Reed, of the USGS, said: “The fact that you’re removing hundreds of visible snakes means, unfortunately, that it is likely that there are many, many thousands more out there you can’t see.”
The latest crackdown is part of a four-year plan launched in 2011 that includes the training of dogs and hawks to hunt the snakes.
The main issue with eradicating the snake species from the island is that it spends most of its life underground. With hundreds of snakes captured this year, it is likely that there are many thousands more living underground.
An EU study in 2012 concluded that the problem is likely to spread to all of the Canary Islands. Reportedly, the snake has also been spotted in Tenerife.