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Captiva Eastern Indigo Snake

September 27, 2012
Submitted by Chris Lechowicz - Wildlife Habitat Management Director, SCCF , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

The Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation announced that its Pine Island Sound Eastern Indigo Snake Project has documented the first eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon couperi) from Captiva Island since 1988.

This rare Florida reptile was thought to be extirpated from Captiva Island. This snake was found at South Seas Resort by a contractor from RS Walsh and a South Seas grounds employee on Sept. 20. The snake was safely released back on Captiva.

South Seas Resort was made aware of the project a couple months earlier and informed SCCF biologists immediately after spotting the snake. South Seas staff had been informed of the rarity of this snake and spread the word to other employees and contractors at the resort. We would like to thank South Seas Resort and RS Walsh for their response and cooperation.

Article Photos

Eastern Indigo Snake

The Pine Island Sound Eastern Indigo Snake Project is currently trying to inventory indigo snakes on the barrier islands of Pine Island Sound to develop a population estimate and to find out any ways to protect the last remaining populations of indigo snakes on barrier islands throughout their range. Every captured snake is measured, marked and given a pit tag to be able to identify the snake in the future and then released at the site of capture.

The eastern indigo snake is still considered extirpated on Sanibel. The last known verifiable record from Sanibel was hit by a bicycle on the Indigo Trail on the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge in February 1999. This snake died at C.R.O.W shortly after. There have been countless unconfirmed reports of this snake on the island since then, but none have resulted in an actual correctly identified specimen. Indigo snakes do resemble southern black racers (Coluber constrictor priapus) but get quite a bit larger.

The typical adult indigo snake is between 5 and 7 ft long and very thick in diameter. They can reach up to 8 ft and above in length, but that is rare. Black racers, the most common snake found on Sanibel and Captiva Island, are typically between 2 and 3.5 ft in length, but can exceed 4 ft. They are relatively thin as compared to indigo snakes. Racers have white undersides, especially under the chin and neck. Indigo snakes have red underneath their chin and neck with small traces of white.

Indigo snakes are very docile, non-venomous animals that rarely bite people. Their diet is mostly snakes, including venomous snakes, but they will eat rodents, frogs, fish and other small prey. Indigo snakes have large home ranges. It is not uncommon for them to cross water channels to hunt for prey on other islands. Because of their large home ranges, road fatalities are the main reason they are so in decline currently. They are most active during their winter breeding season, Nov March, when road traffic is at its peak. Indigo snakes prefer large unbisected (by roads) tracts of land with uplands.

The eastern indigo snake has been protected by the U.S. Endangered Species Act since 1978, and it has been protected in Florida since 1971. It is illegal to harass, kill, or collect (including touching it or getting in its way) by the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Basically, it has the same protection as sea turtles and the Florida Panther. SCCF has partnered with the Orianne Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to saving the eastern indigo snake, to conduct research on the last remaining populations on barrier islands. SCCF is permitted by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to conduct research on eastern indigo snakes.

If you see one of these snakes, please call Chris, Joel or Amanda at the SCCF Wildlife Habitat Management Building at 239-472-3984.

 
 

 

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