The indigo snake is a large glossy blue-black non-poisonous snake reaching lengths of up to 9 feet. It is a solid color with the exception of an occasional orange, pink white or reddish area under the chin, which may extend to the throat and cheeks. It is sometimes confused with the similar black racer or the black pine snake, but is much stockier than the slender racer, which has a white chin patch and the black pine snake, which has no chin patch and keeled rather than smooth scales . Indigos are active during the day during much of the year and prey on small mammals, lizards. birds, frogs , toads, and other snakes. They are immune to the venom of all North American poisonous snakes and readily eat them. Indigos use a variety of habitats during the year, but are almost always associated with gopher tortoises and the sandy ridges they inhabit. Indigos often share the gopher’s den during hot or cold weather. Indigos are relatively docile and slow moving, probably contributing to their decline.
Common Names in English:
Eastern Indigo Snake, Indigo Snake
The family Colubridae, which includes the kingsnakes (Lampropeltis spp. ), is the largest, most widespread, and diverse family of snakes , with few physical characteristics universal among all species. The family contains 70 percent of the known species of snakes, with more than 1700 species worldwide (Pough et al. 1998). Although some colubrids are dangerously venomous , most are harmless to humans. 
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).
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 .
Biome: Terrestrial .
regions dominated by mature
pines, turkey oaks, and wiregrass; flatwoods; most types
; dry glades
; palmetto flats; prairie; brushy riparian
and canal corridors; and wet fields
(Matthews and Moseley 1990, Tennant
1997, Ernst and Ernst 2003). Occupied sites are often near wetlands
and frequently are in association with Gopher Tortoise burrows. Pineland
habitat is maintained by periodic fires. Viable populations of this
species require relatively large tracts of suitable habitat. Refuges
include tortoise burrows, stump
crab burrows, armadillo
burrows, or similar sites. Eggs
may be laid in gopher (Geomys)
burrows (Ashton and Ashton 1981). See USFWS (1998) for further information.
List of Habitats:
- 1 Forest
- 1.4 Forest - Temperate
- 1.5 Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Dry
- 1.6 Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Moist Lowland [more info]
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.
- Whittaker & Margulis,1978
- C. Linnaeus, 1758
- (Hatschek, 1888) Cavalier-Smith, 1983
- Grobben, 1908
- (Haeckel, 1874) Cavalier-Smith, 1998
- Bateson, 1885
- Cuvier, 1812
- Jawed Vertebrates
- Goodrich, 1930
- Superorder: Lepidosauria () -
- Infraclass: Lepidosauromorpha ()
- Subclass: Diapsida ()
- Superclass: Tetrapoda () - Goodrich, 1930
- Infraphylum: Gnathostomata () - auct. - Jawed Vertebrates
- Subphylum: Vertebrata () - Cuvier, 1812 - Vertebrates
- Phylum: Chordata () - Bateson, 1885 - Chordates
- Infrakingdom: Chordonia () - (Haeckel, 1874) Cavalier-Smith, 1998
- Branch: Deuterostomia () - Grobben, 1908
- Subkingdom: Bilateria () - (Hatschek, 1888) Cavalier-Smith, 1983
- Kingdom: Animalia () - C. Linnaeus, 1758 - animals
Coluber couperi Holbrook 1842: 75 • Drymarchon corais couperi Conant & Collins 1991: 191 • Drymarchon corais ssp. couperi • Drymarchon couperi — Crother 2000: 61 • Georgia couperi Baird & Girard 1853: 92 ?
Status: Accepted Name
Comment: BOULENGER (1894) synonymzied this species with Drymarchon corais.
Drymarchon couperi was proposed as a distinct species by Collins (1991), based on previously published (but unspecified) morphological differences and application of the evolutionary species concept. Recent checklists (e.g. , Crother et al. 2000, Collins and Taggart 2002) listed couperi as a species, although no new data supporting the split have been presented.
Wuster et al. (2001) described a new species of Drymarchon from northwestern Venezuela, bringing the species total for the genus to four (five if couperi is recognized as a species). Wuster et al. (2001) did not present data on D. couperi but nevertheless accepted it as a distinct species, based on apparently consistent differences in labial scalation (Smith, 1941). They noted, however, that further study is needed to confirm the taxonomic status of D. couperi.
This database accepts Drymarchon couperi as a species, based on similar treatment in most relevant recent literature..
All other blackish snakes in the range of the Indigo Snake have a divided anal scale or keeled scales or both.
Members of the genus Drymarchon
ZipcodeZoo has pages for 6 species and subspecies in this genus:
D. corais (Indigo Snake) · D. corais corais (Indigo Snake) · D. corais erebennus (Indigo Snake) · D. couperi (Eastern Indigo Snake) · D. melanurus (Central American Indigo Snake) · D. melanurus erebennus (Texas Indigo Snake)
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- Report of the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution and financial report of the Executive Committee of the Board of Regents for the year ending June 30. .. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1933-1965. url p. 131, p. 162.
- Brands, S.J. (comp.) 1989-present. The Taxonomicon. Universal Taxonomic Services, Zwaag, The Netherlands. Accessed January 10, 2012.
- Hammerson, G.A. 2007. Drymarchon couperi. In: IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloadedon 31January2012.
- Hammerson, G.A. 2007. In IUCN 2008. 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCNRedList.org. Downloaded July 19, 2008.
- IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. . Downloaded on January 28, 2012.
- Private Forest Management Team, Auburn University
- Ruggiero M., Gordon D., Bailly N., Kirk P., Nicolson D. (2011). The Catalogue of Life Taxonomic Classification, Edition 2, Part A. In: Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2011 Annual Checklist (Bisby F.A., Roskov Y.R., Orrell T.M., Nicolson D., Paglinawan L.E., Bailly N., Kirk P.M., Bourgoin T., Baillargeon G., Ouvrard D., eds). DVD; Species 2000: Reading, UK.
- TIGR Reptile Database . Release date: October 2, 2007
- The Georgia Museum of Natural History and Georgia Department of Natural Resources
- Uetz, Peter. The Reptile Database
- Biodiversity Heritage Library NamebankID: 2539115
- Catalogue of Life Accepted Name Code: Rep-2527
- Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) Taxonomic Serial Number (TSN): 202172
- IUCN ID: 206163
- Natural Heritage Network Species Identifier: ARADB11020
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Species Identifier: C026
- Zipcode Zoo Species Identifier: 177804
- Painter, Charles W., Chuck L. Hayes, and James N. Stuart "Recovery and Conservation of the Gray-Banded Kingsnake. New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. May 1, 2002. [back]
- Hammerson, G.A. 2007. Drymarchon couperi. In: IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 31 January 2012. [back]