Seeking Sightings of Eastern Indigo Snakes
The SCCF Pine Island Sound Eastern Indigo Snake Project began researching these rare snakes in 2012 on several islands near Sanibel, although it’s a real challenge because Sanibel is not an optimal place for this federally threatened species due to modern infrastructure design and traffic. These docile snakes breed and move around the most during the winter, when the island’s roads are busy.
The most common snake on the island and in South Florida, the Southern Black Racer (Coluber constrictor), is often mistaken for the Eastern indigo snake simply because they are black. However, the average size of Southern black racers on the islands is 2.5 to 3.5 feet, and they are much thinner than Eastern indigos. Black racers are more nervous and less tolerant of human interference, and will typically dart at the first opportunity.
Eastern indigo snakes are considered the longest native snake found in the U.S. — the record was just over 9 feet! The average length is typically 5 to 6.5 feet. The genus Drymarchon literally means “ruler of the forest,” because of their size and proclivity to eating other snakes, even venomous snakes.
“Despite their dominance over other snakes, they have the reputation for being amenable toward humans and seem to not have much fear of people,” said SCCF Wildlife & Habitat Management Director Chris Lechowicz.
These snakes have been protected from harassment or taking in Florida since 1971, and have been listed as a threatened and protected species by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service since 1978. The last verified wild Eastern indigo snake on Sanibel was run over by a bicycle in 1999. Lechowicz explained that Sanibel is not suitable for Eastern indigo snakes because of heavy traffic on busy roadways.
“Roads are serious obstacles for these large snakes to traverse multiple times a day,” he said. “One by one, these snakes were struck by vehicles until the populations could no longer sustain themselves.”
If you see an Eastern indigo snake in Southwest Florida, please take a photo and email it to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.