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What is an Indigo Snake?

J.M. Densing
J.M. Densing

The indigo snake is a long, bluish black reptile that is found in some southern areas of North America. There are actually two types, known as the Eastern Indigo Snake and the Texas Indigo Snake; both have many characteristics in common and belong to the genus Drymarchon. They are carnivorous but not venomous, and are generally thought to pose no danger to humans. They prefer a habitat close to water with plentiful available cover, often nesting in underground burrows. Due to the destruction of their natural habitat, these snakes are considered to be endangered.

The indigo snake has a bluish black color with glossy scales. Individual snakes may have some reddish orange coloring near the face and chin, but not all of them have this variation. It has a rounded head with black eyes, extremely powerful jaws, and a black, split tongue. The Eastern Indigo is the longest snake native to the U.S., reaching lengths of up to 8.5 feet (2.6 m). It's a rounded thick bodied snake, and moves relatively slowly.

Indigo snakes prefer living in wetland areas.
Indigo snakes prefer living in wetland areas.

Although it formerly was found in a much larger area of the southeastern U.S., the indigo snake is currently known to live in southern Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Texas, as well as parts of Mexico. Preferred habitats include wetlands, bogs, marshes and swamps, but they will also live in wooded areas with plenty of brush. They use burrows as a resting place, and for nesting and are often found living near gopher tortoise and using burrows dug by them.

The indigo snake is currently known to live in southern Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and Texas.
The indigo snake is currently known to live in southern Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and Texas.

The indigo snake is carnivorous and will eat any prey it can catch. Common food sources include birds, turtles, frogs, rodents, and other snakes. It has been known to eat rattlesnakes and other venomous snakes as well; reptiles are its preferred food source when available. It catches prey in its strong jaws and holds on, using its body weight and size to overpower the smaller creature and swallowing it live.

An indigo snake may eat frogs.
An indigo snake may eat frogs.

Nesting in underground burrows, the female indigo snake will attract numerous males when she is ready to breed. Breeding usually occurs in the winter months, and the eggs are laid in the burrow in the spring. Eggs hatch after a period of 70 to 120 days depending on conditions, and the young snakes are able to live independently right away, feeding on small reptiles and toads. Adult indigo snakes make poor parents, and in fact adult snakes have been known to eat young ones.

Because they are slow moving and docile towards humans, indigo snakes were prized by collectors and kept as pets. This fact, coupled with the gradual destruction of their habitat by human development, has led to them being placed on lists of threatened or endangered species in the areas of the U.S. where they are still found. It is illegal to harm them, sell them, or keep them as pets because of their protected status.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an Indigo Snake?

The Indigo Snake, scientifically known as Drymarchon couperi, is a large, nonvenomous serpent native to the southeastern United States. It is the longest native snake species in the region, with adults commonly reaching lengths of 6 to 8 feet. They are known for their striking indigo-blue coloration, especially along the length of their bodies.

What does the Indigo Snake eat?

Indigo Snakes are carnivorous and have a varied diet. They consume a wide range of prey including small mammals, birds, amphibians, and other reptiles, even including venomous snakes. Their hunting strategy involves overpowering prey with their muscular bodies and swallowing them whole, as they do not possess venom.

Is the Indigo Snake endangered?

Yes, the Indigo Snake is considered a threatened species, primarily due to habitat loss and fragmentation. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, it is listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Conservation efforts are in place to protect its habitat and promote the species' recovery.

How does the Indigo Snake behave in the wild?

Indigo Snakes are diurnal, meaning they are active during the day. They are known for their docile nature and are not typically aggressive towards humans. These snakes are also territorial and require large tracts of land to support their hunting and breeding activities. They often use gopher tortoise burrows for shelter.

How long do Indigo Snakes live?

In the wild, Indigo Snakes can live for up to 15 years, while in captivity, with proper care, they may live even longer. Their lifespan is influenced by factors such as habitat quality, availability of prey, and predation pressures. Conservation programs aim to ensure that these snakes can live out their full natural lifespan.

Can you keep an Indigo Snake as a pet?

While it is legal to keep Indigo Snakes as pets in some areas, it is crucial to ensure that any pet snake is legally obtained and not taken from the wild. Prospective owners should be aware of the significant care requirements, including large enclosures and a varied diet, as well as the snake's protected status.

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    • Indigo snakes prefer living in wetland areas.
      By: Elenathewise
      Indigo snakes prefer living in wetland areas.
    • The indigo snake is currently known to live in southern Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and Texas.
      By: Hamik
      The indigo snake is currently known to live in southern Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and Texas.
    • An indigo snake may eat frogs.
      An indigo snake may eat frogs.