Authored by Kevin Stohlgren
We recently wrapped up another season of surveys for the federally threatened Eastern Indigo Snake (Drymarchon couperi) and the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus) in southeastern Georgia.
We begin our surveys around November when Indigo Snakes migrate to sandhill sites with numerous Gopher Tortoise burrows. Unlike many other species of snake that go into hibernation this time of year, winter is actually when Indigo Snakes begin their mating activity, with males actively searching out receptive females who are typically hanging out in or around one of the burrows.
If males encounter one another this time of year, it can result in a fight. And these fights can be brutal, as each snake tries to pin the other to the ground to display dominance and they occasionally bite their opponent around the head or neck that can result in serious, even life-threatening, wounds. But as they say, “to the winner goes the spoils,” and the winner of these battles gets the right to mate with the nearby female.
Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes are typically done mating by the time winter rolls around in Georgia, but they can still be found basking next to tortoise burrows on warm days.
Here are some highlights from this season:
- Unseasonably warm weather, even for South Georgia, resulted in a great deal of Diamondback activity early in the season.
- We had some heavy rains and flooding, making site access difficult at times.
- We documented Eastern Indigo Snakes on a new survey site in a part of the state where they are incredibly rare—it was even thought possible that they had been extirpated from the site.
- The largest Indigo Snake we captured this season measured 7’5” in length.
- While Indigo Snakes and Diamondbacks are the species we regularly encounter during our winter surveys, other species do occasionally show up. This winter included a couple of Eastern Hognose Snakes.