Bio Facts: Snake, Eastern Indigo
Eastern Indigo Snake
Drymarchon corias couperi
This species is currently known to occur throughout Florida and in the coastal plain of Georgia. Historically, the range also included southern Alabama, southern Mississippi, and the extreme southeastern portion of South Carolina.
High, dry, well-drained sandy soils, closely paralleling the sandhill habitat preferred by the gopher tortoise
The Eastern Indigo Snake is the largest and longest non-venomous snake in North America. The indigo snake is a large glossy blue-black snake reaching lengths of up to 9 feet. It has a solid color with the exception of an occasional orange, pink white or reddish area under the chin, which may extend to the throat and cheeks. It is sometimes confused with the similar black racer or the black pine snake, but is much stockier.
A wild caught adult survived 25 years and 11 months in captivity.
Indigo snakes probably reach sexual maturity at 3 to 4 years of age.
In the wild, they eat snakes, frogs, salamanders, toads, small mammals, birds, and occasionally young turtles. In the Zoo, they are fed rats.
USFWS – Threatened
Indigo snakes use abandoned gopher tortoise burrows for shelter, which is a good place to wait for food since many other creatures use this type of burrow as a home. Indigos are active during the day during much of the year and use a variety of habitats during the year. They are almost always associated with gopher tortoises and the sandy ridges they inhabit. Indigos often share the gopher’s den during hot or cold weather. The snakes remain active to some degree throughout the winter, often emerging from their dens whenever air temperatures exceed 50º F.
During warmer months, indigos also frequent streams and swamps, and individuals are occasionally found in flatwoods. In late spring, female indigo snakes lay about 5-12 large eggs in an underground burrow or other cavity. Young hatch in about three months and vary from the adult color by having a color pattern. These 1-foot babies grow rapidly and may reach adult size in two to three years.
The indigo subdues its prey (including venomous snakes) through the use of its powerful jaws, swallowing the prey while it is still alive.
They are immune to the venom of all North American venomous snakes and readily eat them.
They do not kill their prey by constriction, but swallow their prey alive.
The snake is associated in many countries with the Devil and dark forces. In the bible it was the Devil in serpent from that tempted Eve to take the Forbidden Fruit.
This species of snake requires large areas of undeveloped land, which is why habitat loss is the main reason for the snakes threatened status. Highway mortality from fragmented habitats, domestic dogs, commercial trade, human ignorance, and insecticide poisoning also threaten the long-term survival of the snake.
Forestry operations are not likely to directly affect indigo snakes, unless workers are tempted to kill such a large, slow-moving snake. Unless habitat modification is severe, woodland being converted to another use should not harm indigo snakes. Loss of gopher tortoise habitat and gopher tortoises will likely negatively impact indigo snakes.
The indigo snake’s huge size and gentle demeanor have long made it a favorite with carnivals, sideshows and animal dealers. The commercial popularity of the species caused its numbers to decline dramatically. In 1978, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed indigo snakes as a threatened species in all portions of its range; federal protection has helped to stop collection of these snakes from the wild. The numbers of indigo snakes are still declining throughout most of the Southeast. Habitat loss and fragmentation is the main problem facing these snakes today.
Jacksonville Zoo History:
This species first appears in the Zoo’s animal collection records in March 1957. It has successfully bred here.