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Lake Machado Overrun With Invasive Snakes

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Thousands of three-foot-long southern water snakes inhabit the recently-cleaned lake

Scientists studying Lake Machado, the strange zoological stew in Ken Malloy Harbor Regional Park, say that there may be no good way to rid the body of water of thousands of non-native snakes that call it home. As the LA Times reports, biologists have been collecting and dissecting these southern water snakes since 2010. The snakes grow to be about three feet in length and feed mostly on fish and frogs. Park officials believe that the snakes, along with a number of other creatures in the lake, were introduced by nearby residents no longer interested in exotic pet ownership. With the southern water snake able to produce nearly 60 offspring in a single breeding season, the animals have multiplied quickly. Now, many are concerned they could eventually find their way into the river systems of Southern California.

The good news is that the snakes currently don't pose much of a threat to native species. Of course, part of that is because there simply aren't many to be found at Lake Machado. Years of pollution and neglect have made it hard for native species to thrive in and around the lake. A recent cleanup effort promises to improve those conditions, but USGS snake ecologist Robert Reed says that improved water quality will also help the snakes. The only sure way to get rid of the water snakes is to eradicate their food sources by draining the lake for at least a year," he tells the Times.

That sounds like kind of a bummer for visitors to the park, but it might be necessary to get the rapidly growing population of non-native species under control. The snakes might not even be the most horrifying creature to call the lake home. The Times reports that baseball-sized snails are also commonly seen, and in 2010, there were reports of a 15-foot-long python. Of course, the most memorable resident of the lake was Reggie the alligator, who was eventually captured and moved to the Los Angeles Zoo.