Eastern Indigo Snake

Eastern Indigo Snake

Indigo, Blue indigo snake, Black snake, Blue gopher snake, Blue bull snake

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Order
Suborder
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Drymarchon couperi
Population size
Unknown
Life Span
17-25 yrs
WEIGHT
0.5-4.5 kg
LENGTH
1-2.4 m

The Eastern indigo snake is a large, non-venomous snake native to the eastern United States. It is the longest native snake species in the U.S. These snakes have uniform blue-black dorsal and lateral scales, with some specimens having a reddish-orange to tan color on the throat, cheeks, and chin. They received their common name from the glossy iridescent ventral scales which can be seen as blackish-purple in bright light. Unlike many snakes, mature male indigo snakes are slightly larger than females.

Di

Diurnal

Ca

Carnivore

Pi

Piscivores

Te

Terrestrial

Pr

Precocial

Ov

Oviparous

Bu

Burrowing

Po

Polygynandry

No

Non-venomous

So

Solitary

Hi

Hibernating

No

Not a migrant

E

starts with

Distribution

Geography

Continents
Countries
Biogeographical realms

Eastern indigo snakes range from extreme southwestern South Carolina south through Florida and west to southern Alabama and southeastern Mississippi. They inhabit flatwoods, hammocks, dry glades, stream bottoms, cane fields, riparian thickets, and high ground with well-drained, sandy soils. In Georgia, Eastern indigo snakes prefer excessively drained, deep sandy soils along major streams, as well as xeric sandridge habitats. From December to April, Eastern indigo snakes prefer sandhill habitats; from May to July they shift from winter dens to summer territories; from August through November they are located more frequently in shady creek bottoms than during other seasons.

Eastern Indigo Snake habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Eastern indigo snakes are solitary and diurnal creatures. Because the cover requirements of these snakes change seasonally, they maintain corridors that link these different habitats. From the spring through fall snakes must be able to travel from sandhill communities and upland pine-hardwood communities to creek bottoms and agricultural fields. In winter, they den in gopher tortoise burrows, which are usually found in open pine forests with dense herbaceous understories. Eastern indigo snakes may even cohabit with gopher tortoises in their burrows, although snakes will settle for armadillo holes, hollow logs, and debris piles when gopher tortoise burrows can't be found. Burrows need to be in areas where there is no flooding. Eastern indigo snakes heavily use debris piles left from site-preparation operations on tree plantations. These piles are often destroyed for cosmetic reasons but should be left intact because they provide important hiding cover for both the snake and its prey. Summer home ranges for indigo snakes can be as large as 273 acres (110 hectares). As defensive behavior, Eastern indigo snakes vertically flatten their neck, hiss, and vibrate their tail. If picked up, they seldom bite.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Eastern indigo snakes are carnivorous, like all snakes, and will eat any other small animal they can overpower. They eat turtles, lizards, frogs, toads, a variety of small birds and mammals, and eggs. Their diet also includes other snakes (ophiophagy), including venomous ones, as indigo snakes are immune to the venom of the North American rattlesnakes.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
November-April
INCUBATION PERIOD
3 months
BABY CARRYING
4 to 12
INDEPENDENT AGE
at birth
FEMALE NAME
female
MALE NAME
male
BABY NAME
snakelet
BABY CARRYING
12 eggs

Eastern indigo snakes are polygynandrous (promiscuous) and both males and females mate with multiple partners during the breeding season. According to most researches in northern Florida, these snakes breed from November to April. Females lay up to 12 eggs Females deposit between May and June usually in abandoned burrows or fallen logs. Incubation period lasts around 3 months. Snakelets are completely independent at hatching and grow rapidly. They reach reproductive maturity between 3 and 4 years of age.

Population

Population threats

Eastern indigo snakes are threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation and collecting for the pet trade. They also suffer from "gassing" of tortoise burrows. As these snakes often cohabit with gopher tortoises in their burrows, hunters, hoping to flush out rattlesnakes, often wind up accidentally killing indigo snakes when they illegally pour gasoline into the burrows of gopher tortoises.

Population number

The IUCN Red List and other sources don’t provide the number of the Eastern indigo snake total population size. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List but its numbers today are decreasing.

Ecological niche

Eastern indigo snakes are useful in their ecosystem because due to their diet habits they help control populations of rodents and other snakes, including venomous snakes.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • The generic name of this snake, Drymarchon, roughly translates to “lord of the forest”.
  • Eastern indigo snakes sometimes kill their prey by beating it against nearby objects.

References

1. Eastern Indigo Snake on Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_indigo_snake
2. Eastern Indigo Snake on The IUCN Red List site - https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/63773/12714602

More Fascinating Animals to Learn About