TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/AP) — Wildlife officials have released 15 threatened native, nonvenomous eastern indigo snakes in North Florida.

A Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission news release says the reptiles were set loose at The Nature Conservancy’s Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve west of Tallahassee.

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Government agencies, wildlife groups and universities are trying to return the apex predator to the region.

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Similar releases were conducted the past two years.

The eastern indigo snake is the longest snake native to North America, growing to over 8 feet long (2.4 meters). Scientists say it serves a critical function in its environment, consuming a variety of small animals. The snakes were historically found in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida, though their range is now more restricted.

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(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)