Epicrates striatus fosteri On August 14, 1941 Thomas Barbour - the legendary Curator of Amphibians and Reptiles of Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology- described a new boa as "black as a raven's wing- with a glittering pearly iridescence of extraordinary beauty" from North Bimini, Bahamas. Although new to science, the boa was already well-known to the Bimini Islanders as one of the "fowl snakes" native to the Bahamas. The snake in question, the Bimini boa (Epicrates striatus fosteri) is currently considered to be a close relative, or subspecies, of the Hispaniolan boa of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, but the relationship is not readily apparent. The Bimini boa differs from the Hispaniolan boa in terms of its coloration and pattern. The Hispaniolan boa is marked with somber tones of chestnut and dusky brown, whilst the Bimini boa is resplendent with its ground color of shimmering black, decorated by a series of irregular grey blotches along the length of the back and a contrasting creamy white belly.
One of the most amazing attributes of this snake is its large adult size (ca. 8+ feet) along with the density of the populations that once existed on North and South Bimini. Their numbers were affected in the late sixties and early seventies when hundreds of these snakes were removed from the Bimini Islands for the pet trade. No ecological studies have ever been published on the Bimini boa, but it is likely that it inhabits a variety of subtropical dry forest habitats on Bimini- including mangrove, where the adults feed opportunistically on rats and birds. Juveniles tend to feed on smaller prey, such as Anolis lizards and Eleutherodactylus frogs.
Mating takes place in early spring and the young are born in early fall. As in other subspecies of E. striatus, the Bimini boa has relatively large litters of ca. 20 baby snakes, each weighing ca. 15 g at birth. Similar to other species of boas, the young are born alive and are ready to hunt within days with no parental care. Litter size within the species is dependent on female body size. Younger, smaller females will have smaller litters, whilst larger individuals will have larger litters. Bimini boas reach sexual maturity in 3-5 years, depending on how successfully they are able to hunt and grow. While males will attempt to mate each year, females reproduce biennially, or every other year.
The future of this beautiful snake is uncertain. Once common on all the Bimini Islands, including East Bimini, North Bimini, South Bimini, and Easter Cay, populations have evidently been much reduced by human persecution, illegal collection, and development. Long ago, in the forties, Barbour lamented about "the extermination of what few land vertebrates there were once to be found on such islands as Cat Cay and Gun Cay."
Editors note: recently through the efforts of the Shark Lab and others the Bimini population has been made aware of the importance of this exquisite boa. As a result of this the Bimini boa populations have blossomed, especially on south Bimini. Today Shark Lab and others have placed PIT tags and tracked several dozen Bimini Boas!
Text Courtesy of: Peter J. Tolson, Ph.D Director of Conservation & Research The Toledo Zoo
Bimini Island Ground Boa (Tropidophis canus curtus) The Bimini Ground boa, or Dwarf boa, has been documented on Bimini, New Providence, and the Cay Sal Bank. This elusive boa has only been reported a few times on Bimini, the last time being in the 1950's. Amazingly, in May of 2006 the BBFS caught and tagged two individuals of this species. It was a first for the BBFS, not only to tag one, but just to see it. It's diet includes a variety of frogs & lizards, and it employs an unusual defense of auto-hemorrhaging from its eyes and mouth when threatened.
Bahamian Brown Racer (Alsophis vudii picticeps) The Brown Racers are the most common snakes in the Bahamas, and Bimini's beautiful sub-species is often sighted on both South Bimini and North Bimini. Racers are quite active, diurnal snakes, and can often be found hunting for food in the wooded areas of South Bimini. The BBFS staff has witnessed Brown Racers feeding on Anolis lizards, and even on a Pink Blind Snake (Typhlops biminensis) near a termite mound. The Bahamian Brown Racer is a rear-fanged colubrid snake and is mildly venomous. The Racers' venom is used to immobilize small prey, such as Anolis lizards, and poses little or no threat to humans.
Bahamian Pink Blind Snake (Typhlops biminensis) The Pink Blind Snakes are more common on Bimini than the Brown Blind Snake, and are often mistaken for earth-worms. They can commonly be found hiding under rocks and logs near ant nests, and around termite mounds, where they can easily feed on the tiny insects inside. Blind snakes are the most primitive group of snakes.
Bahamian Brown Blind Snake (Typhlops lumbricalis)
The Brown Blind Snake is found on most of the larger islands of the Bahamas, including the Abacos, Andros, the Berry Islands, Eleuthra, Cat Island, Long Island, and throughout the Exuma chain. On Bimini they are most commonly seen in rotting logs, and under rocks.
Bimini Ameiva (Ameiva auberi richmondi) The sub-species of Bimini Ameiva is a very common sight during the day time. This family of lizards is heat loving inhabiting both wooded and developed areas of the island. The ameivas are very fast moving lizards, and are likely to quickly flee when approached.
Cuban Twig Anole (Anolis angusticeps)
The Cuban Twig Anole is found throughout the Bahamas, but is not as commonly seen as some of the other Anolis lizards due to it's camouflage color. The Twig Anole hides easily amongst the branches and stumps of the Bahamian woods, where it feeds upon such small prey as aphids.
Hispaniolan Gracile Anole (Anolis distichus biminensis) Bimini's sub-species of Hispaniolan Gracile Anole is a beautiful and common site around the island. This Anole is a fast moving, restless lizard that can be found near forested areas as well as near houses and other developed areas. This is another Anolis lizard that is common around the BBFS property.
Cuban Brown Anole (Anolis sagrei) The Cuban Brown Anoles are another Anolis found throughout the Bahamas. Unlike most of the other Anoles on Bimini, which spend most of their time in trees, the Cuban Brown Anoles are more commonly seen on the ground or displaying their dewlaps on the BBFS porch and garden.
Bahamian Green Anole (Anolis smaragdinus lerneri)
The Green Anoles are very commonly seen around South Bimini during the day time. Most of their day is spent perched on tree branches and leaves, including many of the palm trees scattered around the BBFS yard. Green Anoles have excellent camouflage and are quick to hide from people when approached.
This sub-species, also called the 3-Banded Dwarf Gecko, is found only on the western Great Bahama Bank, and the Cay Sal Bank. Like other S. nigropunctatus, they are common not only in wooded natural areas, but in developed areas as well.
Ocellated Dwarf Gecko (Sphaerodactylus argus)
The Ocellated Gecko is found throughout the West Indies, as well as Southern Florida. Similar to the other two Sphaerodactylus species found on Bimini, these lizards are most often seen in dry forested areas under rocks and leaf litter.
Reef Gecko (Sphaerodactylus notatus amaurus)
The Reef Geckos are commonly found in dark, shaded areas or under logs and rocks. Sphaero eggs are also a common sight hidden amongst homes and within roof-tops. None of the three species of Dwarf Gecko found on Bimini grow longer than about 6 – 7cm, and they are often mistaken for juveniles of some of the larger lizards on the island.
Tropical House Gecko (Hemidactylus mabouia)
The House Gecko, which grows considerably larger than the Sphaerodactylus genus of geckos, is an introduced species to the Bahamas. This gecko is native to tropical Africa, and is most commonly seen around house lights at night, waiting for curious bugs and insects to prey on.
Curly-Tail Lizards are a very common sight around Bimini, especially on North Bimini. They are an omnivorous feeder, eating such things as flowers, seeds, spiders, roaches, and large quantities of ants.