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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Species Fact Profile: Eastern Indigo Snake (Drymarchon couperi)

Eastern Indigo Snake
Drymarchon couperi (Holbrook, 1842)

Range: Southeastern United States
Habitat: Pine Forest, Prairie, Dunes, Wetlands
Diet: Small Mammals, Frogs, Birds, Eggs, Snakes
Social Grouping: Solitary
Reproduction: Polyandrous.  Males track females by their pheromone trails.  Breeding season is November through April; females lay 4-12 eggs in the burrows of of other animals, usually in May or June.  Young hatch 3 months later and are independent.  Snakes are mature at 3-4 years old.  Possible that they have the ability to store sperm and delay fertilization, but this theory has not been confirmed.
Lifespan: 20-25 Years
Conservation Status: IUCN Least Concern

  • Uniform blue-black dorsal scales, very smooth and glossy.  Some individuals have red or tan coloration on the throat and chin..  Ventral scales have iridescent glean in bright light
  • Longest (not largest overall) snake species native to the United States; longest individual measured 2.8 meters, more typically 1-2 meters.  Weigh up to 5 kilograms.  Males slightly larger than females.
  • Scientific name Drymarchon translates to "Lord of the Forest", couperi honors American planter James Hamilton Couper, who brought the first type specimen
  • Often use burrows dug by gopher tortoises or armadillos as burrows
  • If multiple males converge on a female in breeding condition, they will engage in ritual combat, or "dancing", intertwining their bodies and attempting to pin each other to the ground.
  • Due to their warm habitats, indigo snakes do not hibernate, but are inactive a few weeks out of the year.  They undergo seasonal migrations from drier habitats in the winters to wetter ones in the summers, traveling up to four miles
  • Prey on venomous snakes, being immune to the venom of the species with which they share their range
  • Have been observed beating their prey to death against rocks and other objects; do not utilize constriction
  • What were previously believed to be separate subspecies on indigo snake have since been elevated to a total of four species, including D. couperi
  • Major threat is habitat loss; sometimes gassed in burrows in attacks made on rattlesnakes.  Traditionally were popular in the pet trade, but this decreased after they were listed under the US Endangered Species Act in 1971

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