Basking often occurs at temperatures of 15 to 22°C (60 to 72°F) and at temperatures as low as 7°C (45°F). Photos by J.D. Xeric slash pine plantations seem to be preferred over undisturbed longleaf pine habitats. In this region, Gopher Tortoise burrows play a central role in the ecology of these snakes, particularly during ecdysis (shedding of their skins). Preferred habitat includes pine and scrubby flatwoods, pine rocklands, dry prairie, tropical hardwood hammocks, edges of freshwater marshes, agricultural fields, coastal dunes, and human-altered habitats. It is the longest snake native to the United States, ranging in size from 60-84 inches (152-213 cm), and is entirely shiny bluish-black color, including the belly. Eastern indigo snakes are solitary and diurnal creatures. They reach reproductive maturity between 3 and 4 years of age. In the cooler months, Eastern Indigos bask in the vicinity of those Gopher Tortoise burrows that they use as retreats. Threats to the snake included loss of habitat, which continues today, and over-collection for the pet trade. Stand up for our natural world with The Nature Conservancy. Account author: Andrew M. Grosse, University of Georgia – edited by J.D. In Georgia, Eastern indigo snakes prefer excessively drained, deep sandy soils along major streams, as well as xeric sandridge habitats. With the advent of cooling temperatures and shortening day lengths in autumn, adult Eastern Indigos concentrate on sand ridges and other upland habitats to breed. Few if any indigos persist in North Florida. (1.33 to 2 ft.) upon hatching. The scientific name of the Eastern Indigo Snake, Drymarchon couperi, roughly translates to “Emperor of the Forest.” As one of the largest snakes in North America, this majestic nonvenomous animal truly lives up to its name. Specifically, urban and rural development, agriculture, roads, altered fire regimes, forestry and conversion to pine plantations have fragmented habitats resulting in negative impacts to Eastern Indigo Snakes. In the Coastal Plain of Georgia, Eastern Indigo Snakes favor habitats underlain by wind-blown deposits of sand 3 to 9 meters (10 to 30 feet) deep which are located along the northeastern sides of major blackwater streams (e.g., the Alapaha, Altamaha, Canoochee, Ohoopee and Satilla Rivers). If picked up, they seldom bite. Home range size and movement may be influenced by Eastern Indigo Snake population densities, mating opportunities, prey abundance, and the distance traveled between winter refugia and seasonal foraging areas. Learn. These snakes use gopher tortoise burrows as shelter during the winter and during the warmer months for nesting and refuge from intense summer heat. Many species including the Eastern Indigo Snake and Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake rely on Gopher Tortoise burrows for den and nesting sites. Indigo snakes are sexually dimorphic, with males growing to larger lengths than females. 13 days until #WorldSnakeDay2020! The orange-red pigment is more prominent in male Eastern Indigos and may extend onto the belly of some south Florida snakes. 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. Eastern Indigos often consume rattlesnakes and cottonmouths and can do so because they have a high degree of immunity to the venom of these species and suffer no lasting injury if they are bitten by them. The generic name of this snake, Drymarchon, roughly translates to “lord of the forest”. Juvenile eastern indigo snakes eat mostly invertebrates. And travel means crossing roads. Individual linear movements can also be significant. Populations of Eastern Indigo Snakes are isolated from their nearest relative, the Texas Indigo Snake (Drymarchon melanurus erebennus), by approximately 1,000 kilometers (620 miles). Some Eastern Indigo populations in south Florida inhabit vegetated, rock-strewn canal banks surrounded by sugarcane fields or citrus groves. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List but its numbers today are decreasing. During this time they are often found in Gopher Tortoise burrows or similar retreats. The historic range included southeastern Mississippi, southernmost Alabama and possibly southeastern South Carolina. The Latin name for the genus Drymarchon roughly translates to “forest ruler” from the Greek words drymos, meaning forest, and archon, meaning ruler. 2003. They eat turtles, lizards, frogs, toads, a variety of small birds and mammals, and eggs. Adult indigos may travel a span of three miles during warmer seasons, so large, intact landscapes are essential for the specials survival. They received their common name from the glossy iridescent ventral scales which can be seen as blackish-purple in bright light. Indigo snake is a species of nonvenomous snake belonging to the colubrid family, found only in the eastern United States. *Mobile Terms & Conditions Eastern Indigo Snakes have one of the largest home ranges of any North American snake species. Eastern indigo snakes need a mosaic of habitats to complete their annual life cycle. There is variation in this trait, with some populations in northern Florida having black lip scales, a white patch in the center of the throat and lacking orange-red. Terms of Use Historically, Drymarchon corais was considered a monotypic species with eight to 12 subspecies including D. c. couperi. Unlike many snakes, mature male indigo snakes are slightly larger than females. Vote. The chin and sides of the head are usually colored reddish or orange-brown. Join Chris as he traverses the sandhills to the swamps to show you when and where Indigo Snakes travel. : Males: 5.2 ft (1.58 m); Females: 4.5 ft (1.38 m). In winter, they den in gopher tortoise burrows, which are usually found in open pine forests with dense herbaceous understories. Also, these snakes will occasionally feed on young gopher tortoises. The eastern indigo snake frequents flatwoods, hammocks, dry glades, stream bottoms, cane fields, riparian thickets, and high ground with well-drained, sandy soils. Habitat loss and fragmentation are the most significant causes of Eastern Indigo Snake decline. Eastern indigo snakes heavily use debris piles left from site-preparation operations on tree plantations. The chin and sides … In addition to the reintroductions to unfragmented sites, like the Conecuh National Forest, there is a push to increase available habitats through management practices like longleaf pine restoration and prescribed fire. The Altamaha River Corridor has extensive sandhills and tracts of Longleaf Pine and includes the Orianne Indigo Snake Preserve. Human population growth increases the risk of direct mortality of the eastern indigo snake from property owners, domestic animals, and highway mortality. In the northern parts of the range (i.e., southern Georgia and northern Florida, including the Panhandle region) Eastern Indigo Snakes rely on Gopher Tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) burrows for cool-season dens, and are restricted to sandy, Longleaf Pine habitats. Reaching lengths of almost 9 feet, it is the longest native snake in the United States. Eastern indigo snakes were listed as threatened because of dramatic population declines caused by over-collecting for the domestic and international pet trade as well as mortalities caused by rattlesnake collectors who gassed gopher tortoise burrows to collect snakes. It was first described in 1842 by American zoologist and herpetologist, John Edwards Holbrook. Habitat selection varies seasonally. In peninsular Florida, the species occurs in diverse habitat types including sandhills, oak scrub, sand pine scrub, mangrove swamps, wet prairies, cabbage palm-live oak hammocks and pine flatwoods. During the summer they prefer wetland edges where prey is abundant but move to drier habitats in the winter. In Alabama, Eastern indigo snakes rely on open pine savannas managed with frequent, low-intensity fire. The reintroduction of eastern indigo snakes in North Florida could be groundbreaking. The species is fairly stout-bodied and sexually dimorphic in size, with males attaining greater lengths than females. The Nature Conservancy is a nonprofit, tax-exempt charitable organization (tax identification number 53-0242652) under Section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code. Extensive tracts of wild land are the most important refuge to sustain a breeding population of eastern indigo snakes. © 2020 The Nature Conservancy When cornered, they may flatten their heads, hiss and vibrate their tails, which produces a rattling sound. It is the longest native snake species in the U.S. It is the longest snake native to the United States, ranging in size from 60-84 inches (152-213 cm), and is entirely shiny bluish-black color, including the belly. In north Florida, female home ranges vary between 20 and 280 ha. Its color is uniformly a lustrous black, although the chin, throat, and sometimes the cheeks may be red to creamy in color. It is who we are and how we work that has brought more than 65 years of tangible lasting results. Eastern Indigos are inactive for roughly two weeks when undergoing ecdysis. 2. Populations in other parts of the state, although declining, still have strongholds in warmer Central and South Florida, where it rarely drops below freezing.

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