Glass-blown Snake – The Eastern Indigo by Jungle Pete Corradino
There’s a snake that reaches lengths of over 8 ½ feet and subdues its prey with an incredibly powerful bite that is disappearing from the Southeastern United States. Most people might be fine if a snake species disappeared forever but this snake is nonvenomous and even eats venomous snakes. It’s gorgeous and it deserves to keep its place in the ecosystem. I’m referring to North America’s longest native snake – the Eastern Indigo Snake (Drymarchon couperi)
The problem is four fold.
1) They share subterranean Gopher Tortoise dens, as do rattlesnakes. For years collectors and hunters would gas the dens to round up the rattlers and the Indigos and Tortoises paid the price as well.
2) This hefty snake is amazingly beautiful with gleaming blue-to-black scales from head to tail that give it a glass-blown look. Certain individuals, including the one in my arms, also have a sunset-red pattern under the chin. These snakes were prized for many years by collectors and despite their protected status today, are still poached from the wild.
3) Invasive fire ants do harm to snakes and eggs, while feral hogs destroy nests as well.
4) The greatest problem facing the Indigo today is habitat destruction. The snake prefers dry habitat such as Saw Palmetto scrub bordered by a water source. They feed on a wide variety of species including reptiles, amphibians, small mammals and birds. (Growing up at the Florida Monkey Sanctuary, we had an Indigo famously slither into a cage and sadly, eat one of the rescued animals. It had to wait until it had fully digested its meal before it could exit the cage.)
When land is slated to be cleared in Indigo habitat, developers are required to post educational Indigo Snake Protection Plan posters to inform the public about the species whose habitat they have just destroyed.
On a more positive note, an Indigo was recently spotted on Captiva Island in SW Florida for the first time since 1988. November is the start of the Indigo breeding season. Indigo boys and girls mate and disperse but what comes next is a mystery. It has been suggested that the Indigo girls nest in tortoise holes where eggs incubate for roughly 90 days to the sweet melodies of American folk rock. Or so I’m told.