Spain’s war against the Californian kingsnake invasion

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INVADING: California kingsnake has no predators in Gran Canaria.Credit: Connor Long/Creative Commons


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GRAN CANARIA is redoubling its efforts to counter an invasion by the Californian kingsnake, which is threatening the balance of nature on the Spanish island.

A team is spending four months before and during the breeding season trying to catch as many as possible in a bid to halt the species’ spread and with the aim of eventually eradicating it from the island. So far this year 507 specimens have been found, a figure similar to the numbers found by this stage last year, but the pest controllers aim to double that number by the end of the campaign.

The California kingsnake is a constrictor and not poisonous, which is one reason they are popular pets. This is probably how they were introduced to Gran Canaria. Although not dangerous to humans, they are having a devastating effect on the island’s native wildlife, explained the vice-minister of Environment and Security of the Government of the Canary Islands, Blanca Pérez.

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It has no natural predator on the island, so left unchecked it would “break the balance of the ecosystem,” said Pérez.

The first symptoms of this problem are already being seen, as there is evidence of areas where the Gran Canaria lizard (Gallotiastehlini) is disappearing. This species, endemic to the island, is the largest lizard in the Canary Islands, and has become one of the preferred prey of the invading species.

Currently, the main population centres of the Californian kingsnake are in San Roque del Valle in Telde, as well as in Roque Amagro (Gáldar), San Bartolomé de Tirajana and in Barranco del Guiniguada in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.

The authorities say now is the most important time of year to trap them, just before they breed.

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