LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - The Ellen Trout Zoo has joined efforts to save the Louisiana pine snake.
The snake's population has increased in recent years by participating in a breeding program.
Only four zoos across the United States were chosen for the program which hopes to breed and then release the snakes back into the wild.
"They have the largest eggs of any of the North American snakes, and they only lay about four at a time," said Gordon Henley, the zoo's director.
However, the pine snakes are now low in number.
The Snakes Species Survival Plan or SSP is in works to change this problem.
"There's a very complicated computer program that runs these breeding programs. We're releasing enough to maintain a population and we're still maintaining enough to keep that program going," Henley said.
The Louisiana pine snakes are rarer in Texas.
The last one was spotted in 2007.
They are now becoming what is called an insurance population.
"We manage them genetically, so they'll always have the Texas genes that they need. When we can get a spot in Texas where they can be released we'll have some to put back into Texas," Henley said.
A safe habitat is what they need in Texas before they are released.
As of now, the zoo has all of the Texas pine snakes on record.
When they first started, there were only three, but there is now a total of 31.
During breeding season, they're housed in a bin similar to their natural habitat.
Breeding season for the snakes begins in March and eggs are laid from April to May.
Henley said it's because of the SSP Program that officials have learned how the Louisiana pine snake operates.
He hopes that soon, the Texas generation can be released into the wild.