Queen Snakes Are Back, and They’re in New Jersey

Good morning. It’s Tuesday. Today we’ll meet a creature that you might not want to encounter face-to-scaly-face. We’ll also get details on Columbia University’s decision to begin suspending students who remained at the pro-Palestinian encampment after a deadline set by the university.

Credit…Jeff Dragon

It’s a slithery, picky eater that craves crayfish — and isn’t much to look at.

“It’s drab and brownish-looking,” Jeff Dragon said. “It’s not going to stand out.”

He was talking about a queen snake.

Dragon, who studies snakes as a research scientist with the New Jersey Pinelands Commission, noticed a specimen last month — the first queen snake known to have been seen in New Jersey since 1977.

The thought of snakes may make you recoil, but queen snakes are not poisonous. They are an endangered species in New York and are listed as critically imperiled by NatureServe, a nonprofit organization that assembles data on species and ecosystems.

Dragon had been on the lookout for queen snakes in South Jersey — he will not say exactly where to keep the area from being overrun with snake hunters — since 2021, when he got a text from a friend’s brother: “I think I have a queen snake in my basement.”

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