Update on Snakes!

When I first wrote the section on Safety, I ignored the issue of Snakes because there never was any. That began to change with the shutting down of the Hovensa refinery. These are not venomous snakes but rather slow moving Red tailed Boa constrictors. I have updated the safety section and am posting it here.

Update on snakes:

For the same reasons that almost every plant had to be brought to St. Croix by humans, so did most animal life arrive at the hand of man. Iguanas were brought for food, deer were brought for hunting and meat and mongoose were brought to kill vermin. During the first 5000 years of human occupancy by Amerindians, Africans and Europeans, no one was dumb enough to bring snakes to the island.

Starting in 1990, there was a huge demand for construction labor to build large refinery units and also rebuild the island after Hurricane Hugo. Perhaps 10,000 people moved to the island to work. Most returned while others stayed and got jobs at the enlarged refinery or started their own construction businesses.

Dr. William Coles, chief of wildlife for the Division of Fish and Wildlife at the Department of Planning and Natural Resources on St. Croix reported that he caught the first imported red tail boa in 2008 but that increased to a few a year after 2012. All of them were sighted west of the Carlton area.

Coles believes they were originally brought in as exotic pets by someone who worked for HOVENSA. When the refinery closed in 2012, many workers returned to the mainland and some left their snakes and other pets behind.

The red tail boa feeds on native birds, chickens, rats, mongoose and small dogs. They are able to climb trees, making them a threat to native bird species.

The red tail boa is generally not harmful to humans. It can bite but it is not venomous. It hunts at night and hides out during the day. If it hunts a small animal there will be no evidence as the small animal will simply disappear in the snakes digestive system. While not damaging to humans, the potential disruption to native birds, animals and pets is the reason for the attempted eradication of these non-native snakes. 

About John Boyd

I have been hiking the hills and beaches of St. Croix, Virgin Islands for over 35 years and in retirement, decided to become a Heritage Hiking Guide specializing in the local history, geology, plant life and environmental changes that accompanied all groups of settlers over the last 3000 years. Unfortunately, aging of my body has temporarily limited my aggressive physical activity and I am using my intrinsic curiosity to explore the very obscure history of St. Croix prior to World War I. The oldest recorded History was dominated by the actions of Absolute European Monarchs who claimed ownership of the Island. Of course, all their actions were reported upon by official scribes who were controlled by censorship. Regardless of the outcome, reports were always positive until the king was dead and a new monarch crowned.
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