The Forestry Department has expressed concern over reports of numerous sightings of the venomous fer de lance in residential areas of Millet.
“We are getting a lot of those reports and that is a concern we have,” Acting Chief Forestry Officer, Alfred Prospere, told St Lucia Times.
Prospere disclosed that for last year alone, there were more than 10 reports of signtings of the reptile.
“We see those fer de lance right next to our office in Millet. We have gotten reports that there are persons in Millet who have seen the fer de lance in their very own veranda; around their houses and in agriculture areas,” the Acting Chief Forestry Officer stated.
He explained that as a result of the increased reports of the snake being seen in the community, the Forestry Department is mounting a massive public education and sensitization programme to inform people how to respond.
“The concern we have is that the fer de lance and the boa constrictor are almost similar,” Prospere explained.
He told St Lucia Times that it is illegal to kill the boa which is not venomous.
However the Forestry Department official said because people may not be able to differentiate between the two, they would assume that both snakes are dangerous.
Explaining the purpose of the sensitization campaign, Prospere said it will inform Millet residents what they need to look for.
He noted by way of example, the need to identify whether a snake on a tree is a boa constrictor or a fer de lance.
“If it is a boa constrictor, it means it can remain on the tree once you don’t disturb it – for days, because it may have just fed on rats or something to cause it to climb and remain there for a long time until it is hungry and can go out to feed.”
“”But if it is a fer de lance that you see, by just creating noise or trying to do anything to disturb it, there is a high or great possibility that it can attack you immediately, depending on how close you are to it,” Prospere warned.
He revealed that the Wildlife Act indicates that if a protected species is killed, the person responsible can be fined up to $EC 5,000 or be imprisoned for six months.
Prospere said although the fer de lance is not on the protected list, the Forestry Department is encouraging people not to kill the snake.
“The fer de lance has potential for value added because of the fact that we are beginning to understand that its venom is very important for curing heart ailments. So why would we want to kill a reptile that has benefits in terms of curing heart ailments?”
He asserted that if the snake does not pose a threat, it should not be killed.
In addition to the fer de lance and the boa, Saint Lucia is also home to the very rare Saint Lucia racer which is found only on Maria Island and the worm snake, which is about three to four inches in length, Prospere said.