KELLEYS ISLAND, Ohio (AP) -- The nonpoisonous Lake Erie water snake - deemed endangered by the state and threatened by the federal government almost a decade ago - has rebounded in recent years, and biologists predict that it will soon be removed from the lists.
The water snake once inhabited 22 islands and rock outcrops of western Lake Erie, part of the Ontario mainland and shorelines of Ohio's Catawba/Marblehead peninsula.
But the species fell victim to development and, more specifically, hogs, which were brought to the islands in the early 20th century to kill the snakes. As vacationers crowded the resort communities on South Bass, Middle Bass and Kelleys islands each summer, more of the snakes - which are known to bite - were eliminated.
Just 1,200 adult water snakes were left about 20 years ago, Northern Illinois University researcher Richard King said.
Now there are about 12,000. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reviewing the snake's status.
The service declared the snake threatened in 1999, meaning it was in danger of extinction in some areas. The listing made it illegal to kill or harm the snakes or destroy their habitats.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources designated the water snake as an endangered species in 2000. It also received legally protected status in Canada by Ontario's provincial Endangered Species Act.
In Ohio, the snakes have benefited from several hundred acres of protected habitat. Additionally, islanders have been told they can't build docks or breakwalls with sheet metal at water level. Property owners have been building docks from wire mesh, wood and rock, which make it easier for snakes to pass through and nest.