CAPTIVA ISLAND, Flo. (WBBH) - Landscapers on Florida's Captiva Island stumbled upon a rare find - one that practically scared them off.
The Eastern Indigo snake is native to Southwest Florida's barrier islands, but had not been spotted on Captiva since 1988.
When landscapers spotted the rare snake at South Seas Island Resort on Captiva, Director David Foster was nearby.
"All the sudden, when you least expect it, they come running out after finding the snake, scared and intimidated," he said.
At nearly six feet long, the Eastern Indigo snake they found seems intimidating - but researcher Chris Lechowicz says looks can be deceiving.
"I just don't want people to be afraid of it," Lechowicz said.
Working through the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, Lechowicz and his team study the endangered species.
He explained the Eastern Indigo is a non-aggressive species and does not have venom.
And until now, it had not been seen on the island in almost 25 years.
"These populations of Eastern Indigo snakes that we have on barrier islands and the Pine Island Sound are the last populations on islands," Lechowicz said.
As Florida's islands became more populated, researchers say the Eastern Indigo snake went into decline.
Many were killed crossing roads - something that remains a problem even today.
Scientists put the snake back on Captiva, where it was found and where it can feast on venomous snakes.
"It's good to have and we'll educate people if you see the snake, don't panic," Foster said.
Instead, scientists urge people to leave Eastern Indigo snakes alone.
They are endangered, so it's illegal to touch, take or kill them. And according to scientists, they keep our habitat in balance.
Lechowicz and his team have partnered with the Orianne Society to study how many Eastern Indigo snakes remain in the Pine Island Sound area.