Rare Eastern Indigo Snake Sighted
On June 14, SCCF collected data and marked and released a young female Eastern Indigo Snake (Drymarchon couperi) on an island in Pine Island Sound. This was the first documented individual since Hurricane Ian, which shows the continued existence of the species in the area.
Eastern Indigo Snakes are in rapid decline throughout their range, mostly due to habitat loss. This species has a very large home range that results in high mortality on roads from vehicle strikes.
“They require large un-bisected areas that have ample food items and cover for them to escape the Florida heat and extreme cold snaps,” said SCCF Wildlife & Habitat Management Director Chris Lechowicz. “This is the reason they are often associated with gopher tortoise burrows, especially in the northern part of their range.”
Eastern Indigo Snakes use gopher tortoise burrows to escape freeze events, which allows this mostly subtropical snake to live as far north as south Georgia. In southwest Florida, they are not as dependent upon burrows, as they have other options to survive through mild winters.
Eastern indigo snakes have become extremely rare on Florida islands, mostly because of development and roads. However, Pine Island Sound appears to be the only place left in Southwest Florida with viable populations of this imperiled species.
“We have documented breeding and successful hatching on two islands in Pine Island Sound, but those places are experiencing increased threats every year, mostly due to development and traffic,” Lechowicz said. “This is the same reason we lost them on Sanibel in 1999 and Captiva in 1988, where they are considered extirpated.”
Please report any indigo snake sightings with pictures, if possible, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In honor of this majestic snake, SCCF has named a small preserve in its name where indigo snakes are still present.
SCCF formed the Pine Island Sound Eastern Indigo Snake Project in 2012 to monitor populations of this rare and protected snake on islands in Southwest Florida, thanks to a collaboration with the Orianne Society. SCCF is still under the Orianne Society’s federal permit to conduct research on this state and federally threatened species.