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Overview

Distribution

Occurrence in North America

AL FL GA MS SC TX MEXICO

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The eastern indigo snake ranges from southern South Carolina south
through Florida and west to Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. The
Texas indigo snake is found in southern Texas and Mexico [11].

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Continent: Middle-America South-America North-America
Distribution: USA (S Texas, Florida, SE Georgia, S Alabama),  Mexico (Yucatan, Aguascalientes, Tamaulipas), Guatemala, Honduras (Islas de la Bahia, Isla de Utila: [HR 31: 255]), Belize, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Trinidad, Tobago, French Guiana, Colombia, Venezuela (Mérida), Brazil (Amapá, Rondonia, Roraima, Goias), Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, N Argentina (Chaco, Formosa), Paraguay (LEYNAUD & BUCHER 1999)  elevation; 0-1555 m (Honduras)  margaritae: W Margarita Islands, Venezuela;
Type locality: Near San Francisco de Macanao, Isla Margarita, Venezuela.   melanurus: Mexico  rubidus: Mexico (Michoacan, Sinaloa);
Type locality: Rosario,Sinaloa.  
Type locality: America [corais] 
Type locality: San Francisco de Macanao, Isla de Margarita, Venezuela [margaritae] 
Type locality: Mexico [melanurus]
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Peter Uetz

Source: The Reptile Database

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Ecology

Habitat

Associated Plant Communities

The indigo snake is most abundant in the sandhill plant communities of
Florida and Georgia. These communities are primarily scrub oak-longleaf
pine (Pinus palustris) with occasional live oak (Quercus virgianiana),
laurel oak (Q. laurifolia), Chapman's oak (Q. chapmanii), and myrtle oak
(Q. myrtifolia). Other communities include longleaf pine-turkey oak (Q.
laevis), slash pine (Pinus elliottii)-scrub oak, pine flatwoods, and
pine-mesic hardwoods [1].

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Habitat: Ecosystem

More info on this topic.

This species is known to occur in the following ecosystem types (as named by the U.S. Forest Service in their Forest and Range Ecosystem [FRES] Type classification):

FRES12 Longleaf-slash pine
FRES13 Loblolly-shortleaf pine
FRES32 Texas savanna

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Cover Requirements

More info for the terms: cover, tree

Because the cover requirements of indigo snakes change seasonally,
maintaining corridors that link the different habitats used is
important. From the spring through fall snakes must be able to travel
from sandhill communities and upland pine-hardwood communities to creek
bottoms and agricultural fields [9]. In winter indigo snakes den in
gopher tortoise burrows, which are usually found in open pine forests
with dense herbaceous understories [6]. Burrows need to be in areas
where there is no flooding. Indigo snakes also heavily use debris piles
left from site-preparation operations on tree plantations [6]. These
piles are often destroyed for cosmetic reasons but should be left intact
because they provide important hiding cover for both the snake and its
prey. Summer home ranges for the indigo snake can be as large as 273
acres (229 ha) [9].

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Preferred Habitat

More info for the terms: selection, xeric

Indigo snakes frequent flatwoods, hammocks, dry glades, stream bottoms,
cane fields, riparian thickets, and high ground with well-drained, sandy
soils [11]. In Georgia, snakes prefer excessively drained, deep sandy
soils along major streams, as well as xeric sandridge habitats [1].
Xeric slash pine plantations seem to be preferred over undisturbed
longleaf pine habitats [6]. Habitat selection varies seasonally. From
December to April indigo snakes prefer sandhill habitats; from May to
July snakes shift from winter dens to summer territories; from August
through November they are located more frequently in shady creek bottoms
than during other seasons [9].

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Habitat: Cover Types

More info on this topic.

This species is known to occur in association with the following cover types (as classified by the Society of American Foresters):

More info for the terms: hardwood, swamp

66 Ashe juniper - redberry (Pinchot) juniper
68 Mesquite
70 Longleaf pine
71 Longleaf pine - scrub oak
72 Southern scrub oak
81 Loblolly pine
82 Loblolly pine - hardwood
84 Slash pine
85 Slash pine - hardwood
89 Live oak
104 Sweetbay - swamp tupelo - redbay
105 Tropical hardwoods
111 South Florida slash pine
241 Western live oak

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Habitat: Plant Associations

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This species is known to occur in association with the following plant community types (as classified by Küchler 1964):

K061 Mesquite - acacia savanna
K062 Mesquite - live oak savanna
K078 Southern cordgrass prairie
K079 Palmetto prairie
K080 Marl - everglades
K091 Cypress savanna
K092 Everglades
K112 Southern mixed forest
K113 Southern floodplain forest
K115 Sand pine scrub
K116 Subtropical pine forest

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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

Indigo snakes eat other snakes, turtles, lizards, frogs, toads, a
variety of small birds and mammals, and eggs [6,11].

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Associations

Predators

Humans represent the biggest threat to indigo snakes. Highway
fatalities, wanton killings, and overcollection for the pet trade
adversely affect indigo snake populations. Snakes are taken illegally
from the wild and sold as pets for as much as $250 each. Snakes are
also inadvertantly gassed in their burrows by rattlesnake hunters [1].

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General Ecology

Habitat-related Fire Effects

More info for the term: litter

Fire exclusion in southern pine-scrub oak habitats is a major cause of
habitat degredation for gopher tortoise and, therefore, indigo snakes
[6]. The absence of fire allows oaks to mature and leaf litter to
accumulate, making burrow digging difficult and herbaceous food scarce.
Studies of herpetofauna in Florida sandhill commmunities showed higher
species diversity in young sand pine (Pinus clausa)-scrub oak habitats,
which are maintained by frequent fire [7]. Experimental burns in these
communities showed snakes used plots burned at 2- and 7-year intervals
more than plots left unburned or burned yearly. The effects of
different season burns on gopher tortoises in Ocala National Forest,
Florida, showed more burrows in July-burned areas than in
February-burned areas at the first postfire year [8]. Preburn densities
of gopher tortoise were not determined.

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Timing of Major Life History Events

Indigo snakes can grow as long as 125 inches (262 cm). They mate from
November through March with a peak in mid-November through late
December. The age of sexual maturity is unknown [9]. An average of 3
to 10 eggs are laid in March through July; eggs hatch from May through
October [10]. The average life span of the indigo snake is 11 years,
although they can live as long as 21 years [11]. They do not hibernate
and remain somewhat active during winter, especially if temperatures are
higher than 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 deg C) [9].

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Life History and Behavior

Life Expectancy

Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 25.9 years (captivity) Observations: The average longevity of these animals is 11 years. Their age at sexual maturity is unknown (http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/).
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Joao Pedro de Magalhaes

Source: AnAge

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Drymarchon corais

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Barcode of Life Data Systems

Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

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Conservation

Conservation Status

U.S. Federal Legal Status

The eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon corais couperi) is federally listed
as Threatened [13].

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The eastern indigo snake continues to decline throughout its range in
Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and South Carolina [9]. The state of Florida
lists it as threatened [12].

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Management

Use of Fire in Population Management

More info for the term: cover

Landers and Speake [6] recommend burning indigo snake habitats every 2
years to maintain a young, open overstory and an abundant herbaceous
understory. This will provide good gopher tortoise habitat, which in
turn will provide burrows for snakes. Burning sandhill communities
every 2 to 4 years will maintain open longleaf pine stands with
understories of wiregrass (Aristida stricta) and turkey oak [6].
Burning in late summer where young indigo snakes have been released from
captive breeding programs is not recommended because young snakes depend
on dense herbaceous vegetation for cover instead of burrows [10].

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Management Considerations

More info for the term: cover

Indigo snakes are a commensal species associated with gopher tortoises.
Snakes use abandoned tortoise burrows heavily in the winter and spring
[1]. For this reason it is necessary to maintain healthy tortoise
populations, also a species in decline throughout its range. Because
slash piles are used by snakes for hiding and foraging, this debris
should be left intact on pine plantations [6]. Speake and others [9]
recommend protecting several thousand hectares of prime indigo snake
habitat to ensure the snakes' year-round needs are met. Some important
sandhill communities of Georgia and Florida are being replaced by slash
pine plantations, which can support a few snakes if burned and planted
with wide spacing to encourage gopher tortoise populations [6].

Recommendations for captive breeding of indigo snakes are as follows
[10]: Captive snakes should be released to the wild after 2 to 3 years,
and new snakes from the wild should be introduced to the captive
population, preferably every winter. This is important because wild
snakes seem to grow faster and produce more young than snakes held in
captivity. Because smaller snakes do not use tortoise burrows, they
should be released in wetland areas with plenty of herbaceous cover near
the water's edge. Hatchlings will den in areas with dense saw palmetto
(Serenoa repens) and should be released near these areas.

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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Common Names

indigo snake
American corais snake
blue bull snake
blue gopher snake
Couper's snake
Georgia snake

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The currently accepted scientific name for the indigo snake is
Drymarchon corais. It is in the family Colubridae. Subspecies of
indigo snake occurring in the United States are [11]:

D. corais couperi (eastern indigo snake)
D. corais erebennus (Texas indigo snake)

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