First wild eastern indigo snake found in Alabama in 60 years - Alabama NewsCenter (2023)

By David Rainer
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Traci Wood admitted holding the snake almost made her come unglued. She wasn’t afraid of the snake she was holding. It was the magnitude of the moment.

Wood, the Habitat and Species Conservation coordinator with the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division, had in her hands the first wild eastern indigo snake documented in Alabama in more than 60 years.

“I’m not embarrassed to say that I was shaking when I held that animal,” Wood said. “This is a monumental benchmark in conservation for Alabama and the southeast region for this species.”

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She said, besides aquatic species, “there isn’t another example of species recovery of a federally listed species through reintroductions.

“It’s a big deal, extremely big. It’s big for recovery efforts of a federally listed threatened species. It’s the first documentation of a wild snake in more than 60 years in Alabama. It’s proof that what we are doing through reintroduction is working and that captive snakes are acting like wild snakes after they are released.”

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Commissioner Chris Blankenship echoed the importance of the achievement.

“I am thrilled that we have documented wild reproduction of the eastern indigo,” Blankenship said. “It is great for the species, but I am also really happy for Traci and the staff who have worked for years to make this happen. They truly have a passion for their work, and I am so thankful for them.”

First wild eastern indigo snake found in Alabama in 60 years - Alabama NewsCenter (1)

Technicians from the Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences and the Museum of Natural History were out looking for documentation of indigo snakes as part of the long-term program to reestablish viable populations of eastern indigos in their native habitat, mainly in longleaf pine forests in central and south Alabama.

“We try to document how long they are living, how far they are moving and how they’re doing health-wise,” Wood said. “The technicians were out and came across the snake as part of the monitoring effort. It was really no different than the monitoring we do for the released snakes. We’re out there assessing and trying to document their survival.

“There’s always the hope that we will find documentation of reproduction, and it finally happened.”

Wood said the technicians knew immediately what they had discovered when the snake was picked up.

“They knew because it was a hatchling-size snake,” she said. “It measured 2 feet in length, which is much smaller than the snakes we release from OCIC (Orianne Center for Indigo Conservation). It had no PIT (passive integrated transponder) tag or any indication we use in monitoring to indicate it was a released snake. Those released snakes are 5 feet in length or longer. They estimated the juvenile indigo at about 7 months old. It probably hatched in July or August (of 2019).”

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The eastern indigo project started in 2006, and the program was able to start releasing captive-raised indigos in 2010, with 17 adult snakes released into the Conecuh National Forest below Andalusia, bordering Florida. The goal is to release a total of 300 snakes to improve the chances of establishing a viable population. The project team has released 170 snakes to date. Wood said the decision-making and planning for indigo recovery through reintroductions started with late Auburn University professor Dan Speake in the 1970s and 1980s.

“It’s been a long process with a lot of sweat,” Wood said. “We have faced some criticism along the way. Then, when what you have hoped for happens, it’s extremely rewarding and overwhelming.”

During the early days of the indigo project, the released snakes were propagated from indigos that had been captured in the wild in Georgia. Partners in this project include U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Zoo Tampa, Zoo Atlanta, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Army’s Fort Stewart, the OCIC at the Central Florida Zoo, where the captive indigo breeding and health care are handled, and the Auburn Museum of Natural History and School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences.

“We’re kind of at the halfway mark in the reintroduction,” Wood said. “It’s very exciting to see verification of reproduction at this stage of the project.

“It’s a huge testimony to the state wildlife grants program and working toward the recovery of a federally listed species. It is considered an experimental population. We were conducting research and making decisions that had never been done before with this species,” Wood said. “It was a lot of groundbreaking work. Florida now has a reintroduction program, and a lot of their work is based on what we’ve done at Conecuh and lessons learned at Conecuh.”

Wood said the lessons included that a learning curve is a given with a project of this magnitude and that 2-year-old snakes have a better chance of survival in the wild because they are less susceptible to predators.

“We also learned the target for the number of individuals to be released,” she said. “That is 30 individuals per year. We’ve learned that we had to establish a monitoring program that didn’t exist before. We learned it takes intense monitoring on the ground.”

One of the tools the monitoring team borrowed from the hunting community is the game camera. The cameras have been stationed to monitor activity at gopher tortoise burrows, which are utilized by a number of animals, including indigos.

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“We had to learn that a snake is not going to trigger motion sensitivity on the game cameras,” Wood said. “We set the cameras to capture a photo at intervals of 30 to 60 seconds to make sure we capture all the activity. That’s something we’ve recently started, and so far it’s proven to be very helpful. We’ve captured pictures of several indigos at burrows.

“The cameras are showing location, where they’re hanging out, how they’re using burrows and the fact adult snakes are surviving. We estimate that 60 to 80% of the snakes that we reintroduce will survive. That’s not bad at all after they’ve been in captivity for two years.”

Wood said it is not possible right now to estimate the total number of eastern indigo snakes in the Conecuh habitat.

“These recaptures and verification of reproduction is data that will be useful in the future so that someday we may be able to predict how many individuals may be in the wild,” she said.

Wood said eastern indigos were extirpated from the state and hadn’t been seen since the 1950s. Considered an apex predator, the snake plays an important role in the longleaf pine ecosystem. Eastern indigo snakes are the longest snakes native to the U.S., able to grow to more than 8 feet. They prey on a variety of small mammals, amphibians, lizards and venomous snakes, including the copperhead. Indigos are known to range far and wide during the warmer months and then seek refuge in the gopher tortoise burrows during the winter.

The WFF State Wildlife Action Plan identifies 366 animal species that are in the category of greatest conservation need, Wood said.

“Alabama is one of the most diverse states in the nation in terms of amphibians and reptiles,” she said. “Conecuh National Forest is the most biologically rich public land in the country.”

Wood is still having a little trouble grasping what happened recently at Conecuh National Forest.

“Physically holding a wild species that hasn’t been documented in Alabama in more than 60 years gives us high hopes for what we may see when we reach our goal of 300 snakes released,” she said.

This story originally appeared on the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Outdoor Alabama website.

To read about efforts to restore Alabama’s longleaf pine forests, click here.

FAQs

What was the rare snake found in Alabama? ›

The first known, wild Eastern indigo snake was recently discovered at Conecuh National Forest in South Alabama. The snake is approximately 7 months old and is a product of Alabama's Eastern Indigo Snake Reintroduction and Monitoring Project.

What is the largest snake in Alabama? ›

The Eastern Indigo Snake is the longest snake in America.

What is the largest indigo snake? ›

The record length of an indigo snake is 2.6 meters (8.5 feet)!

Is the Eastern indigo snake in Alabama poisonous? ›

The Eastern Indigo Snake is a large nonvenomous, stout bodied snake averaging six to seven feet in length. The largest individual recorded was eight-and-a-half-feet.

What is Alabama's largest venomous snake? ›

The Eastern diamondback rattlesnake is Alabama's largest species of venomous snake.

What is the deadliest animal in Alabama? ›

Those include: the black widow, the northern black widow, the Chilean recluse spider, Mediterranean recluse spider, and the most famous, the brown reclus spider.

What is the fastest snake in Alabama? ›

It is from this characteristic that coachwhips get their common name. These snakes are extremely fast (believed to be the fastest in North America) and are good climbers as well.

What is the biggest snake that ever walked the earth? ›

From deep underground in a Colombian coal mine, in a layer dating to 65 million years ago, scientists have uncovered remains of the largest snake that ever roamed the planet, Titanoboa cerrejonensis.

What is America's biggest snake? ›

The largest native snake in the United States is the eastern indigo snake, a non-venomous snake that can grow up to 8.5 feet in length and weigh up to 11 pounds.

Do eastern indigo snakes eat other snakes? ›

Eastern indigo snakes are active, terrestrial predators known to expose and chase down prey. They eat a wide variety of animals, including small mammals, birds, frogs, turtles, turtle eggs and other snakes — even venomous species like cotton mouths and rattlesnakes.

What is the biggest snake ever found in the United States? ›

Biologists catch record-breaking 215-pound Burmese python in Florida Everglades. Conservancy biologists in Florida caught an almost 18-foot-long, 215-pound Burmese python.

Do eastern indigo snakes eat copperheads? ›

The Eastern indigo snake is a long black nonvenomous snake that inhabits the southeastern United States. It is the longest snake native to North America and is known for chasing down its prey, including all native venomous snakes such as copperheads and rattlesnakes.

What animals eat eastern indigo snakes? ›

Because adult eastern indigo snakes are so large, they have few natural predators. However, red-tailed hawks, alligators, and larger indigos have been documented to prey on indigo snakes. Domestic cats and dogs also have been known to kill indigo snakes.

Do blue indigo snakes eat rattlesnakes? ›

Yes, indigo snakes eat rattlesnakes and have evolved a resistance to rattlesnake venom.

What state has the highest number of snakebite? ›

People of West Bengal are most likely to die of snake-bite cases followed by the people of Odisha and Uttar Pradesh where second and third highest number of deaths were reported due to snake bite, the government data showed.

What is the biggest rattlesnake on record? ›

Description: The eastern diamondback rattlesnake is the largest of the 32 species of rattlesnake currently recognized. They are large, heavy-bodied snakes with large, broad heads with two light lines on the face. Adults are usually 33-72 in (84-183 cm) long, but the largest individual on record was 96 in (244 cm).

What is the number 1 poisonous snake? ›

The inland or western taipan, Oxyuranus microlepidotus, is the most venomous snake in the world, according to Britannica. Native to Australia, this snake has the deadliest venom based on median lethal dose, or LD50, tests on mice.

Do mothballs keep snakes away? ›

Mothballs are commonly thought to repel snakes, but they are not intended to be used this way and have little effect on snakes.

Where do snakes go in the winter in Alabama? ›

Temperatures below 34 degrees at night usually put Alabama's snakes down for the winter in the northern half of the state--in the southern counties, a few might show up well into winter, and they become active in spring much earlier than those in the north, as well, according to the Alabama Poison Control Center.

What kind of big cats are in Alabama? ›

Alabama has two native cats. The first and largest is the mountain lion, also called a cougar, catamount, painter, puma or panther. Cougars are tawny brown to grayish in color, weighing from 75 to 120 pounds, and can reach a length of about 6½ feet, nose to tail.

What animal is only found in Alabama? ›

The Alabama beach mouse (Peromyscus polionotus ammobates) is one of the rarest mouse species in the world. It is found in only a few nature reserves and isolated areas of the state. It is one of the very few mouse species that live in sand dunes.

Are there mountain lions in Alabama? ›

State officials say there is no self-sustaining wild population of mountain lions in Alabama. Cougars are most common in the western United States with the populations closest to Alabama in West Texas and Florida, where they are listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

What snake has the strongest squeeze? ›

King snakes are native to North America and have evolved into the strongest constrictors in the world, with the ability to exert 180 mm Hg of pressure. That's about 60 mm Hg higher than the healthy blood pressure of a human being.

Can you outrun a big snake? ›

In reality, most snakes are slow-moving creatures. Even the quickest snakes, such as the black mamba, only travel at speeds of 18 miles per hour. This is far slower than the average person. Most of the time, you can outrun a snake, as humans can outpace even the quickest snake.

Is there a 100 foot snake? ›

An impossibly long serpent has been spotted, prompting the question: What are your favourite examples of picture fakery? The Daily Telegraph reports today that a 100ft (30m) snake has been spotted lurking in a river in Borneo, "sparking great concern among local communities".

What snake is bigger than an anaconda? ›

Yes, there is a snake bigger than an anaconda. The reticulated python is longer in length than a green anaconda. Generally, green anacondas reach between 20 to 30 feet in length, according to National Geographic. While the reticulated python is longer than the green anaconda, the latter is heavier.

Was there a dinosaur snake? ›

Titanoboa, (Titanoboa cerrejonensis), extinct snake that lived during the Paleocene Epoch (66 million to 56 million years ago), considered to be the largest known member of the suborder Serpentes. Titanoboa is known from several fossils that have been dated to 58 million to 60 million years ago.

What is the biggest copperhead on record? ›

The largest copperhead ever recorded was 4 feet, 5 inches, according to the University of Georgia Extension. How the potentially deadly pit viper met its demise near Bolivar, Tennessee, is not as dramatic as one might expect, considering its size.

Are there any pythons in Alabama? ›

Regarding the large constrictor snakes, they cannot survive in Alabama and there is no legitimate science to support this speculation. Our climate, even southernmost Alabama, is much colder than the southern four counties of Florida where Burmese pythons are found.

Are there any anacondas in the United States? ›

Green anacondas have had relatively few sightings in Florida with a majority of them found around central and north central Florida. They have been reported as far north and Gainesville and as far south as Miami near Everglades City.

Are indigo snakes aggressive? ›

Like many snakes, they can be aggressive when attacked. Indigo snakes rarely bite humans. If it happens, their bite may be painful, but it's not poisonous. They will, however, attack their prey or enemies very aggressively.

Why do snakes eat each other? ›

Scientists looking at excrement from snakes in the Galápagos Islands discovered they are cannibals that eat each other when stressed or hungry.

Are eastern indigo snakes aggressive? ›

When cornered or threatened the eastern indigo snake flattens its head, hiss and vibrates the tail, producing a rattling sound trying to mimic venomous rattlesnakes. But even so, these snakes rarely bite.

What is the fastest snake in the world? ›

After the king cobra, the black mamba is the longest venomous snake in the world. It is also the fastest-moving snake in the world, reaching up to 23km/h. The snake although called Black Mamba is not black at all!

Where was the 215 pound python found? ›

Now, biologists say they've captured the heaviest snake ever found in Florida: A 215-pound, 18-foot-long Burmese python that had likely eaten an entire adult white-tailed deer for her last meal.

What is the biggest snake alive in 2022? ›

#1.

The green anaconda (Eunectes murinus) is the biggest snake in the world! It grows to a length of 30 feet and can weigh up to 550 pounds.

What scent keeps copperheads away? ›

Some of the most popular snake deterrents are West Indian lemongrass, onion plants, garlic plants, marigolds, and Viper's Bowstring Hemp to name a few.

What predator kills copperheads? ›

Owls and hawks are the true enemies of the Copperhead snake.

What kind of snake kills copperheads? ›

The Eastern kingsnake feeds on other snakes, lizards, frogs, rodents, turtle eggs, and birds and their eggs. It eats venomous snakes such as copperheads and rattlesnakes. It is even known to be cannibalistic.

Can you have an indigo snake as a pet? ›

Eastern indigos are not common pets, as they are a federally protected species with strict exportation laws between states, and typically require a permit to keep. However, their care is similar to a less-restricted species, the Texas indigo, Drymarchon melanurus erebennus.

Are indigo snakes federally protected? ›

Eastern indigo snakes became federally protected as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1978, and they are also protected as threatened by Florida and Georgia. It is illegal to harass, harm, capture, keep, or kill an eastern indigo snake without specific state and/or federal permits.

Is a black racer the same as an indigo snake? ›

Indigo snakes are bigger and heavier than black racers. While both are mostly black, indigo snakes have orange-colored throats, while black racers have white-colored throats. Neither species are venomous, though they both mimic the dangerous species of snakes when threatened.

What bird kills rattlesnakes? ›

The Roadrunner is one of the few predators of rattlesnakes and will kill them in an amazing show of agility, speed, and vicious resolve. The bird in the video kills the rattlesnake by bashing the snake's head against the ground, but they will also kill them by pecking through the back of its head.

What predator kills rattlesnakes? ›

Rattlesnakes are preyed upon by hawks, weasels, king snakes, and a variety of other species. Rattlesnakes are heavily preyed upon as neonates, while they are still weak and immature. Large numbers of rattlesnakes are killed by humans.

Will copperheads eat other snakes? ›

The copperhead is a carnivore. Adults eat mostly mice but also small birds, lizards, small snakes, amphibians and insects (especially cicadas).

What is the rarest snake to find? ›

Saint Lucia racer
  • The Saint Lucia racer is a relatively small, harmless snake.
  • As few as 20 individuals may remain, making it the world's rarest snake.
  • These remaining snakes are confined to one tiny (nine-hectare) islet – Maria Major – situated 800 metres off the Saint Lucia mainland.

What is the rarest snake in the US? ›

North America's rarest snake, Tantilla oolitica (rim rock crowned snake), was recently spotted in a park in the Florida Keys after a four-year hiatus. While this would normally be cause for celebration among conservationists, the snake sighting was more a source of incredulous awe than anything else.

What is a titanic snake? ›

Titanoboa (/ˌtaɪtənəˈbəʊər/; lit. 'titanic boa') is an extinct genus of very large snakes that lived in what is now La Guajira in northeastern Colombia. They could grow up to 12.8 m (42 ft), perhaps even 14.3 m (47 ft) long and reach a weight of 1,135 kg (2,500 lb).

Which snake breeder was murdered? ›

Ben Renick, a "rock star" of the reptile world, was found dead in June 2017. Investigators initially suspected one of his prized serpents had killed him, but they realized something more heinous was responsible.

Is there a snake that will chase you? ›

As I said, however, this myth is partly true. Some species of snakes will actively “chase” human beings, such as the Central American bushmaster (Lachesis muta muta). An enormous and lethally venomous serpent, the bushmaster is well-known for this behavior.

What is the number 1 snake? ›

1. Saw-Scaled Viper (Echis Carinatus) – The Deadliest Snake In The World. Although its venom is not very potent, the Saw-Scaled Viper is considered as one of the world's deadliest snakes as it is believed to be responsible for more human fatalities than all other snakes put together.

What is the meanest snake in the United States? ›

1. Mojave Rattlesnake. The Mojave Rattlesnake, also known as the “Mojave Green,” is a species of pit viper from the Viperidae family, and is considered the deadliest snake in North America due to its powerful, deadly venom.

What snake kills the most humans in the US? ›

The eastern diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus) kills the most people in the US, with the western diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox) ranking second.

What three animals survived the Titanic? ›

Three small dogs, two Pomeranians and a Pekingese, survived the Titanic disaster cradled in their owners' arms as they climbed into lifeboats. Miss Margaret Hays, aged 24, boarded Titanic at Cherbourg and was travelling home with two friends to New York with her Pomeranian called Lady.

What animal survived the Titanic? ›

They included dogs, cats, chickens, other birds and an unknown number of rats. Three of the twelve dogs on the Titanic survived; all other animals perished.

What is the snake that plays dead? ›

Perhaps one of the most famously known snakes for death feigning is the Eastern Hognose snake (Heterodon platirhinos). Eastern hognoses are native to North America and can be found as far north as Ontario, Canada and as far south as South Florida and Texas. Eastern hognoses get their name from their pig-like snout.

Do snake catchers get bitten? ›

First responders are often bitten while attempting to capture the snake, adding to the problem rather than helping. Hospital testing will determine the snake venom.

Was the snake killed by the mongoose? ›

Answer: The mongeese killed the snakes.

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