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19 November 2002
A snake found at a florist store at Mt Maunganui on Friday has been confirmed as a North American species known as the southern ringneck, by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF).
The snake, which was killed on the spot on Friday by a store worker, was sent to an expert for validation and identification over the weekend. It measured approximately 25 centimetres in length and less than 1 centimetre in diameter, and was male. The southern ringneck snake (Diadophis punctatus punctatus) is not venomous and is harmless to humans.
MAF Quarantine Service staff were called to the store on Friday morning and a team of MAF investigators was assigned immediately. Ministry of Health staff were also alerted as a precautionary measure.
MAF Exotic Animal Response coordinator Amelia Pascoe said two storage facilities in Mt Maunganui were searched for snakes by MAF staff and biosecurity detector dogs on Saturday. No other snakes have been found.
"At this stage we are investigating consignments of imported foliage as the most likely pathway of entry for the snake. The types of goods we are tracing are subject to intensive treatment and inspection at the border, and by importers, so our initial assessment is that the likelihood of any further finds is low.
The southern ringneck snake has distinctive markings. It is dark grey with an orange underbelly and has a narrow pale yellow ring below its head.
If any members of the public do suspect they have seen a snake they should call the Exotic Pest and Disease Hotline 0800 80 99 66. Snakes should not be approached or handled.
For further information contact:
Amelia Pascoe Exotic Animal Response Coordinator MAF Biosecurity
or Stephen Olsen Communications Adviser MAF Biosecurity