Animals in the Canary Islands are having a terrible time with a kind of snake that's common in the pet trade, the albino California kingsnake. Without a natural enemy to keep its population in check, the snake has been brutal on lizards, birds and mammals living on the islands.
Though the kingsnakes are of a species from California and bred in captivity, some of them found themselves in the Canary Islands as passengers in the pet trade and were able to escape their handlers. Once that jail break occurred, untold thousands of the pale slitherers -- which tend to be much larger than their in-the-wild counterparts -- have now bred and spread. The island of Gran Canaria in particular has enormous per-square-mile populations of the snake in certain areas.
Organized attempts to control the snakes with animals such as hawks and dogs have so far proven ineffective at culling the kingsnake's numbers. And, to make matters worse, snakes caught above ground are not at all representative of the number still on the loose, since the kingsnakes spend so much time unseen underground.
The once balanced ecosystem of the Canary Islands has been thrown into turmoil by the invasive reptile, which isn't too picky about what it will eat. Scientists on the scene worry that some native creatures, such as the gecko, may even be driven to extinction by the kingsnakes.
U.S. teams will visit the Canary Islands in May to help local officials and scientists deal with the snake invasion. The problem is so widespread there is even talk of Earth movers being used to essentially plow under the most snake-ridden areas.