If you’ve ever come across one of these gentle giants somewhere in South Georgia, consider yourself lucky. Unfortunately, they’re on the decline. These large black snakes are the longest snake in North America reaching lengths between 7 and 9 feet.
Did you know?
- The genus of their scientific name means “forest ruler”
- They are non-venomous and observations suggest they are immune to rattlesnake, cottonmouth, and copperhead venom
- The name Indigo comes from the dark blue sheen their scales reflect in the sun
- When threatened they can flatten their necks vertically to look bigger!
- Federally listed species
Eastern indigo snakes were listed as a federally threatened species in 1978. Populations have declined due to habitat loss, collection for the pet trade, and gassing gopher tortoise burrows to collect rattlesnakes. Keep in mind that if you come across one of these gentle giants, you are not allowed to handle them unless you have a permit.
- Use a variety of habitats
In the winter, Indigo snakes can be found in sandhill habitats and use gopher tortoise burrows as dens. During summer months they move to wetlands and swamps.
- Can Identify Males and Females
Indigo snakes are the only native species of snake you can determine gender just by appearance. Males have 3 to 5 rows of scales that are partially “keeled” or have a small raised ridge through the middle of them. Females will have completely smooth scales all over the body.
- Often confused with other snakes
Indigo snakes are often mistaken for other more common species. There are several species of snakes that are also dark in color. However, none of them rival the size of the Indigo. Indigo snakes can also have red to cream colored chins. All known current populations of indigo snake are found south of I-16 and east of I-75. Usually when we receive reports of Indigo snakes, they are actually one of the species below:
- Smaller in size reaching 4 to 6 feet in length
- Duller black
- Thinner body
- Extremely fast
- At least 5 feet in length when full grown
- Typically dark in color on first portion of the body that fades to light toward tail
- Slender body
- Extremely fast
- Some are all black but colors vary
- Upturned snout
- Short, chunky body
- Flattens head horizontally instead of vertically
Black Rat Snake
- 3 to 5 feet in length
- Dark blotches along white belly
- Can have faint patterns on back when adults
I’ve seen one, but NE Fl, not Ga. When you see one there is no mistaking it.
Georgia DNR, Wildlife Resources Division
Glad you’re one of the lucky ones!