The Eastern Indigo Snake. Photo: Pete Oxford

The scientific name of the Eastern Indigo Snake, Drymarchon couperi, roughly translates to “Emperor of the Forest.” As one of the largest snakes in North America, this majestic nonvenomous animal truly lives up to its name. Despite its docile nature when handled by humans, the Eastern Indigo Snake is a top predator and an icon for conservation.

The Eastern Indigo Snake is a wide-ranging top predator that, pound for pound, can require as much room to roam as an African Lion. It also requires different overwintering and summer foraging habitat that can be separated by considerable distance, resulting in a great deal of travel. And travel means crossing roads.

Habitat loss and fragmentation are the most significant causes of Eastern Indigo Snake decline. The species requires large expanses of natural habitat for both overwintering and foraging. Due to the prevalence of private land and small parcel sizes, the southeastern Coastal Plain is a patchwork of different land uses with little continuity across the landscape. Specifically, urban and rural development, agriculture, roads, altered fire regimes, forestry and conversion to pine plantations have fragmented habitats resulting in negative impacts to Eastern Indigo Snakes.

In addition, the Eastern Indigo Snake is directly linked to another vulnerable species—the Gopher Tortoise. In the northern portion of its range, the Eastern Indigo Snake is dependent on Gopher Tortoise burrows for shelter in the winter. As suitable Gopher Tortoise habitat has declined, so have the tortoise populations and with it the Eastern Indigo Snake. 

RELATED INFORMATION

Altamaha River Corridor

The Altamaha River Corridor has extensive sandhills and tracts of Longleaf Pine and includes the Orianne Indigo Snake Preserve.

Spotted Turtle

Complementing our efforts to protect the Gopher Tortoise, we are directing our efforts toward the conservation of this small, mostly-aquatic species.

Gopher Tortoise

Many species including the Eastern Indigo Snake and Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake rely on Gopher Tortoise burrows for den and nesting sites.