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Species Description

Eastern Indigo Snake

Drymarchon couperi


Classification

Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae

Description

These smooth-scaled snakes are glossy blue-black over the entire body. The chin, throat, and sides of the head may be reddish or orange brown. The color of young snakes is the same as the adults but is more reddish on the head and front part of the belly. The Eastern Indigo Snake is the largest snake in North America. The record total length is 263 cm (103.5 in). Adults generally average between 152 - 213 cm (59.8 - 83.9 in) in length. The young are large at hatching, measuring from 43.2 - 61.0 cm (17 - 24 in).

Life Cycle

Breeding takes place in late fall, winter, or early spring. From 5 - 11 eggs are laid in early summer under logs or other suitable cover. These hatch in August or September.

Natural History

The Eastern Indigo Snake eats almost any type of vertebrate it can overpower and swallow. The diet includes amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. This snake is not a constrictor, but the powerful jaws and large body are used to grasp and pin the prey down until it can be swallowed.The Eastern Indigo Snake lives in pine - scrub oak woods, pine flatwoods, and forested sandhills and ridges in the northern part of its range. In the southern portions of its range, it can be found around wetland areas such as swamps, streams, and canals. The distribution and habitat preference closely overlap that of the Gopher Tortoise. Tortoise burrows are important retreats for the Indigo Snake. These large, diurnal snakes require from 50 - 100 hectares (123.6 - 247.1 acres) for their home range.

Range

This snake formerly occurred throughout the Gulf and Atlantic Coastal Plain from extreme southeastern Mississippi and southern Alabama to southeastern Georgia and peninsular Florida. It is now restricted to isolated populations in southeastern Georgia, peninsular Florida, and the Florida panhandle.

Conservation Status

The Eastern Indigo Snake is listed as a Threatened species by Georgia and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Many Indigo Snakes, as well as Gopher Tortoises, are killed by rattlesnake hunters when they pour gasoline into tortoise burrows to flush out Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes.

Similar Species

All other blackish snakes in the range of the Indigo Snake have a divided anal scale or keeled scales or both.