PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. - You could walk through hundreds of acres looking for an eastern indigo snake and never see one.
"When was the last time I saw one in the wild? It was 1995," said David Hitzig, the executive director of Busch Wildlife Refuge.
Several local environmental groups are raising a red flag about the proposed expansion of the Star Ranch limestone mine, located 10 miles south of South Bay west of Highway 27. They fear any indigo snakes and other wildlife on the 800 acre-expansion could be hurt or killed.
"We don't know a species is there so go ahead and destroy? How about we know it can be a great piece of habitat so we preserve it?" said Rachel Kijewski, with the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition.
About 23 of endangered snakes are assumed to live on that land. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the indigo snake.
David Hitzig says the indigo is so rare, chances are not many live where the mine expansion is proposed.
"It'd be great to say to stop it all but that's not realistic. What we need to do is to push as much natural area into protection as possible," said Hitzig
If the mining work gets the green light it would have to comply with federal wildlife service policies to avoid harming indigo snakes and other wildlife. Calls to the mining company were not returned.
No word on how soon the expansion could begin.
Posted by Greg Palmer