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Lake County construction crew on the lookout for endangered snakes

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LAKE COUNTY, Fla. - Construction crews at a new housing development in Fruitland Park are on the lookout for endangered snakes.

Signs have been posted around the Villages of Fruitland Park development warning of the snakes and instructing crews what do if they spot one.

The 900-acre development, which is essentially an extension of The Villages, is slated to include hundreds of homes. But crews working on the site are also focusing on the Eastern Indigo, a black snake that's endangered.

"They are the largest non-venomous snake we have in North America," said Chuck Underwood with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Underwood said the Eastern Indigo is not dangerous, but is on the federal list for endangered species.

"Our data we have shows they are moving toward extinction," Underwood said.

USFWS has specific rules in place for any construction that takes place on land where the snakes may be. If an Eastern Indigo snake is found at the construction site alive, crews must contact USFWS and get clearance for work to continue. If a snake is found dead, crews must soak the snake in water and freeze it until the wildlife agency comes to pick it up.

The development is in its beginning stages and a construction manager said they have at least eight more months of work ahead, which could be longer if snakes are found.

There are serious penalties for anyone who comes across an Eastern Indigo and doesn't follow the rules for the species.