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Eastern Indigo Snake

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Is the Eastern Indigo Snake right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Blue Bullsnake

Scientific name: Drymarchon corais couperi

The basics:
The Eastern Indigo Snake has one of the smallest ranges of all North American species, being limited to parts of southeastern Georgia, Florida and southeastern Mississippi. Within this range, it is found only in large, undisturbed tracts of longleaf pine forest and associated palmetto scrub. It sometimes shelters within burrows of the equally-rare Gopher Tortoise. Only captive-born individuals may be legally sold. The Texas Indigo Snake (D. c. erebennus) ranges from southern Texas to central Mexico, while other relatives, known a “Cribos”, inhabit Central and South America.

Appearance / health:
The Eastern Indigo Snake is, along with 2-3 other species, the longest of all North American Snakes. In the USA, only the Bullsnake occasionally rivals it in size. This robust snake averages 5-6 feet in length, with a record of 8 feet, 5 inches. Glossy, blue-black scales cover the entire body, including the belly, rendering it a uniquely attractive and highly desired pet. The heads and chins of some individuals are highlighted by a reddish tint.

Behavior / temperament:
Indigo Snakes that have not been handled will make a great show of flattening their heads, hissing and vibrating the tail. However, they calm down quickly and have a reputation as the gentlest of the larger snakes. In years past, they were commonly used by dancers and snake charmers in travelling circuses. Alert and aware of their surroundings, Indigos seem much more responsive to people than other snakes. However, they tend to move about when held, and can be difficult to control. Bites can occur, as hungry individuals may strike at nearby movements.

Housing:
Indigo Snakes are extremely active; an adult requires a custom-built cage measuring at least 6 x 4 feet. Newspapers, cypress mulch, eucalyptus bark and similar materials may be used as substrates. A dry shelter and another stocked with moist sphagnum moss should be provided. The enclosure’s screen lid must be secured by cage clips. Indigo Snakes favor cooler temperatures than might be expected. Ambient temperature: 70-78 F; Basking temperature: 85 F.

Indigo Snakes produce copious, watery, waste products and require more upkeep than similarly-sized snakes. The tank should be misted daily, and the moss within their cave should be kept slightly moist.

Diet:
Eastern Indigos take a wider range of prey than most snakes, and are able to overcome and consume rattlesnakes and other venomous species. Rodents, birds and their eggs, lizards, frogs and even small turtles are also taken. Amazingly, they do not utilize constriction, but merely grab and swallow their victims. Pets do well on a diet comprised of mice and rats. Indigos should be offered smaller rodents than might be accepted by other similarly-sized snakes, as their jaws do not stretch to the same extent. They have fast metabolisms, and hungry individuals strike wildly, so always exercise caution at feeding time.

Breeding:
A winter cooling period of 60 F, with a basking spot of 80 F, will stimulate breeding. Pairs must be monitored carefully, as males may bite females during courtship. A typical clutch contains 6-12 eggs, which should be incubated in vermiculite at 75 F for 110-120 days.

Written by Frank Indiviglio

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