ESCAMBIA COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) — The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has announced the discovery of a rare species of snake that has not been seen in the state for over 60 years.

Technicians from the Auburn School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences and the Auburn Museum of Natural History made the discovery last week. Those who made the discovery say they knew exactly what they had in their hands at the time.

“I’m not embarrassed to say that I was shaking when I held that animal,” Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Habitat and Species Conservation Coordinator Traci Wood said. “This is a monumental benchmark in conservation for Alabama and the southeast region for this species.”

A wild Eastern indigo snake had not been seen in Alabama since the 1950s which led to conservationists attempting to reintroduce the species to the Conecuh National Forest in 2006.

In 2010, the Eastern Indigo Project released 17 adult snakes that were previously held in captivity to the forest in hopes they would repopulate the species in the area. Since then, 170 of the nonvenomous reptiles have been released.

“It’s been a long process with a lot of sweat,” Wood said. “We have faced some criticism along the way. Then, when what you have hoped for happens, it’s extremely rewarding and overwhelming.”

While this is a small sign that the project is working a decade after it began, it is a sign nonetheless.

“Physically holding a wild species that hasn’t been documented in Alabama in more than 60 years gives us high hopes for what we may see when we reach our goal of 300 snakes released,” Wood said.