Corn snakes (Pantherophis guttata) are non-venomous snakes native to the Southeastern United States. A few years ago I documented an introduced population of corn snakes established right outside of Cherokee on Abaco (LINK). There have been a few sightings of corn snakes from that area since. Usually, reports are of dead snakes on the Cherokee road (where everyone goes crabbing). Until now, it seemed that the population was restricted to that area (LINK). However, last month while doing road surveys for one of Abaco’s 3 native snakes, the Little Bahama boa, I found an adult corn snake a few hundred meters from Little Harbour.
While Little Harbour is essentially down the road from Cherokee, to my knowledge this observation is the first outside of their previous ‘core area’, the settlement of Yellowwood. A quick measure on Google Earth shows a straight line distance of about 5 km between Little Harbour and Yellowwood – that’s a pretty substantial range expansion over what I presume is only a few years.
This type of range expansion is not unprecedented for introduced corn snakes (or other introduced species). For example, observations from Grand Bahama cover a rather large area including Freeport and east (probably not the whole way to the east end). This larger range isn’t surprising since they’ve been on Grand Bahama for much longer, with the first report coming from 1993 (LINK).
There was also a recent report of an adult corn snake from Guana Cay (LINK), but that observation was never verified leaving it’s presence there unknown. However, once established in an area the further spread of introduced species by humans is quite common. I would not be surprised if that observation was real. So, if you happen to find one of these snakes outside of the Cherokee area, let us know. It’s been useful to track the spread of this invasive species through Abaco and beyond. We’re not quite sure of what damage these snakes might bring to The Bahamas, if any. Keeping tabs on their spread is an important step towards understanding potential impacts.