By Dan Costell, Animal Care Manager of Herps & Aquatics
MAY 1, 2018 UPDATE – The herpetology team will be releasing Indigo snakes that are part of this program back into the wild later this month. Stay tuned for future updates from the field!
On December 17th, the reptile team received 5 juvenile Indigo Snakes from Central Florida Zoo’s Orianne Center for Indigo Conservation.
Why is this news? These 5 Indigos will be part of a head start program at the zoo for future release into the wild. “Head start” means that we will be caring for them until they are large enough to avoid predation. They will then be released in Southern Alabama in the Conecuh National Forest, on the border of Florida. Possibly as soon as May!
The Indigo is a beautiful black snake that has an iridescent blueish tint in the sun and a brown or orange chin. The Indigo, which often seeks shelter in Gopher tortoise burrows, can grow to between 8 and 9 feet long, and is the longest native snake in the U.S. The Indigo’s historic range included the southernmost tip of South Carolina, west through southern Georgia, Alabama, into eastern Mississippi, and throughout Florida. Today their range is far more restricted and this species is both state and federally listed as “threatened” due to habitat loss and habitat fragmentation.
What can you do to help? If you see them in your yard, leave them be, they are non-venomous. Indigo snakes feed on a variety of small animals, including many species that are considered pest species, like rats and mice. This makes them an apex or top predator that is necessary for a healthy and balanced ecosystem. In other words, they are important to the environment.
The reptile team is very proud to be a part of this Indigo snake head start program and will keep everyone updated as it progresses.