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.

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

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.

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

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