st-lucia_web.jpgMARIA ISLANDS — A snake that scientists had declared extinct long ago has been found living in a nature reserve on a tiny isle just off this east Caribbean island, conservationists said.

At least 11 St. Lucia Racer snakes were spotted and tagged by a group of international scientists hunting for the snake in the Maria Islands reserve, which is part of St. Lucia and located a little more than half-mile south of the main island, according to the British-based Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.

Overall, scientists estimate that 18 snakes live on the reserve, said Matthew Morton, Durrell's Eastern Caribbean program manager.

The non-venomous brown snake was declared extinct in 1936 but somebody later spotted one on the rocky reserve in 1973 and rare sightings have since been reported. Late last year, Durrell, with help from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other groups, launched a search for the snake on the larger of the two Maria Islands.

Scientists are now trying to figure out the best way to save the snake, which is less than three feet long and is known for being gentle and comfortable with human beings.