Rediscovery of Rare Rainbow Sᴘaᴋᴇ in Florida, Decades After Its Last Sighting
In a stunning turn of events, the elusive four-foot-long rainbow sᴘaᴋᴇ, unseen since 1969, has resurfaced in the heart of Florida.
During a recent hiking expedition in the picturesque Ocala National Forest, situated 47 miles north of Orlando, two avid explorers, Tгacey Cauthen and ReƄecca Boyeг, stumbled upon a breathtaking spectacle: a vibrant rainbow sᴘaᴋᴇ. Sharing their awe-inspiring encounter on social media, Boyeг expressed, ‘Tгacey and I came face to face with this splendid creature.’
Named ‘eel moccasin’ due to its iridescent blue-black hues, vibrant yellows, and striking red patches, this sᴘaᴋᴇ boasts three distinctive red stripes along its body. Adult specimens measure an average of 40 to 54 inches, with the largest on record stretching an impressive 66 inches.
Research suggests that recent fluctuations in water levels within the Rodman Reservoir may have prompted the sᴘaᴋᴇ to emerge from its concealment.
These highly aquatic creatures, renowned for their cryptic habits, typically lead a concealed life among aquatic vegetation, evading even the watchful eyes of herpetologists. However, the shifting water dynamics of the Rodman Reservoir have seemingly disrupted their usual patterns.
These remarkable beings, primarily dwelling beneath floating vegetation and burrowing near water bodies like creeks, lakes, marshes, and tidal flats, remain a rare sight even to seasoned herpetologists, who specialize in studying amphibians and reptiles.
The Florida Museum of Natural History attests to the harmless nature of rainbow sᴘaᴋᴇs. In 2010, the Center for Biological Diversity in Florida advocated for the protection of the South Florida rainbow sᴘaᴋᴇ under the Endangered Species Act, alongside 403 other imperiled Southeast freshwater species. However, in response, the federal government prematurely labeled the elusive sᴘaᴋᴇ as extinct, without conducting a comprehensive survey to substantiate such a claim about this enigmatic creature.
Following this dismissal, the Center offered a $500 reward to anyone providing concrete evidence of the sᴘaᴋᴇ’s existence. Thankfully, the recent sighting by Cuathen and Boyd marks the first confirmation of a rainbow sᴘaᴋᴇ in five decades.
While these fascinating beings can be found along the coasts from Louisiana to Maryland, the majority are sighted in various locations throughout Florida, particularly within the Panhandle and northern peninsula, according to the museum’s records.
In a delightful twist, a woman’s encounter with a 40-54 inch-long sᴘaᴋᴇ left her in awe, prompting her to exclaim its beauty to her astonished companions.