Indigo Snake

Drymarchon couperi

Last updated: March 18, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
Image Credit Radiant Reptilia/Shutterstock.com

Indigo snakes use brute force to overpower their prey.

Indigo Snake Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Reptilia
Order
Squamata
Family
Colubridae
Genus
Drymarchon
Scientific Name
Drymarchon couperi

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Indigo Snake Locations

Indigo Snake Locations

Indigo Snake Facts

Prey
Snakes, mammals, reptiles
Group Behavior
  • Solitary
Fun Fact
Indigo snakes use brute force to overpower their prey.
Diet
Omnivore
Average Litter Size
4 to 12
Common Name
Indigo snake

Indigo Snake Physical Characteristics

Lifespan
Unknown
Height
Snakes, mammals, reptiles
Length
7 to 9 feet

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Indigo Snake Summary

This iconic snake is sometimes called an icon of the southern longleaf pine forest.

The indigo snake, also called the eastern indigo snake, is a long, black, non-venomous snake that is native to the southern and central United States. This gorgeous snake is impressive with its iridescent blue black scales, huge size, and fearless hunting abilities.

4 Amazing Facts About the Indigo Snake

• It is the longest snake native to the U.S.
• An indigo snake will attack and eat venomous snakes.
• It uses a foul odor to defend itself.
• It rattles its tail when cornered or frightened.

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Where To Find Indigo Snakes

Although it once had a wide range through Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi, the indigo snake mostly lives in Florida and southeast Georgia. This snake prefers densely forested, warm, humid environments. Its preferred habitats are longleaf pine forests, dry prairies, tropical hardwood forests, coastal dunes, and freshwater marshes. The best places to see indigo snakes are preserves like Everglades National Park in Florida.

Indigo Snake Scientific Name

The eastern indigo’s scientific name is Drymarchon corais couperi. The word indigo comes from the Greek word indikon, meaning “from India.” It is a rich blue color made from a plant that grows in warm, humid climates. Indigo has been used as a blue dye for centuries.

Other names for this snake are the blue indigo snake, gopher snake, and blue bull snake.



Indigo Snake Population & Conservation Status

Although they are listed as “least concern” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), eastern indigo snakes are considered threatened under U.S. law. In 1978, they were listed as a protected species under the Endangered Species Act.

The size of the snake’s population is unknown. The species suffered dramatic population declines caused primarily by collectors for the illegal pet trade. Another major threat has been rattlesnake hunters who destroyed gopher tortoise burrows to find the rattlesnakes. Indigo snakes often share the burrows of gopher tortoises. Destroying these burrows left the snakes without shelter.

Since the destruction of these burrows in North Florida, fewer indigo snakes now live in the northern part of the state. They mostly live in southern Florida.

Efforts to preserve this species have focused on breeding them in captivity. It has been difficult because captivity is very stressful for indigo snakes, but some programs have had promising results.

In 2017, Auburn University and the Nature Conservancy began a 10-year program of reintroducing indigo snakes to their former range. The first snakes were released in the Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve in Florida. This preserve has the longleaf pine habitat the snake flourishes in, and the release program is considered a conservation success story.

Zoo Atlanta has set up an indigo snake hatching program to reintroduce the snake to its former territories in Alabama and Georgia. Since 2010, the zoo has been raising baby indigos for release into the wild. More than 150 have been released in the Conecuh National Forest in southern Alabama. In 2020, the first baby indigo snake was spotted in the Conecuh, which means the snakes have established nesting and breeding sites there.

How To Identify an Eastern Indigo Snake: Appearance and Description

The main way to identify it is by its size. With the ability to grow up to 7 feet long, it is the longest snake native to the U.S. It has smooth scales and is a dark blue black that can appear purple in some light. There are other black snake species, including the black pine snake, kingsnake, and black racer. If you want to be sure you’re looking at an indigo snake and not another species, look for the following signs:

• Cream-colored or reddish spots on the chin, head, and throat
• Length of 5 to 7 feet
• Smooth scales
• No patterns or banding

Here are some other differences between the indigo and these other snakes:

• The black pine snake (Pituophis melanoleucus lodingi) only lives in southwest Alabama and is more of a dull black with rougher scales.
• The kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula getula) has cream or yellow bands along its body.
• The black racer (Coluber constrictor) has a black body with a white chin.

Indigo Snake Venom: How Dangerous Are They?

These snakes are not venomous, so their bite carries no chance of poisoning.

Behavior and Humans

An indigo snake usually sets up a hunting range of about three miles. This territory includes the snake’s preferred burrows and water sources.

Indigo snakes hibernate during the coldest part of the winter. When temperatures drop to the 20s, they seek out the burrows of other animals, especially gopher tortoises, as their hiding places during this time. Typically, they use the same burrow every winter, which is why the loss of gopher burrows had a powerful impact on their survival. Indigo snakes in areas without gopher tortoises use the burrows of rodents, armadillos, or land crabs as their winter shelters.

The indigo mates from October to February, and the female produces a yearly clutch of 6 to 12 eggs. Baby indigo snakes are 16 to 24 inches long at birth.

Harmless To Humans

Eastern indigo snakes are harmless to humans, but the reverse cannot be said. Humans are the primary cause of the snake’s decline in population. Humans have illegally taken indigo snakes for the pet trade, and increased development in the snake’s territory has caused death from domestic pets, car accidents, and pesticides.

Because the snake is protected by U.S. law, it is illegal to handle one without a special permit and special training.

Rare and Beautiful Snake

The indigo snake is an icon of the southern U.S. With continued conservation efforts, this, rare, beautiful snake will once again thrive throughout its former range.

FAQ About Indigo Snakes

Are indigo snakes venomous?

No, indigo snakes are not venomous.

How do they hunt?

These snakes wait for prey to cross their territory, and then they strike with their teeth. They usually eat the heads first.

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. Male indigo snakes attack each other when competing for mates.

If frightened or attacked, these snakes make a unique defensive response. They flatten their necks, hiss loudly, and make the tips of their tails vibrate. This creates a buzzing or rattling sound. They may also respond by releasing a foul smell from their anal glands.

Where do indigo snakes live?

The indigo snake prefers warm, humid climates and longleaf pine forests. Snakes in northern Florida hibernate in the winter, but those in the southern part of the state rarely need to because it doesn’t get that cold.

What do indigo snakes eat?

They are carnivores, and they are usually the apex predator in their ecosystem. These large snakes regularly consume other, smaller snakes as their regular prey.

They also kill and eat venomous snakes, including diamondback rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, and copperheads. They can get bitten during these attacks, but they are immune to the snake venom. Their diet consists of:

• Snakes
Turtles
Turtle eggs
Tortoises
• Baby alligators
Lizards
Rodents
Fish
Frogs
Toads

Are there any indigo snakes in Texas?

No, there are no indigo snakes in Texas. Most of Texas is hot and dry, and indigo snakes prefer warm, humid wetlands.

Length 7 to 9 feet
Pattern None
Venomous No
Diet Snakes, mammals, reptiles
Common Name Indigo snake
Lifespan Unknown
Number of Young 4 to 12
Aggression Medium

References
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Eastern Indigo Snake.
Nature Conservancy: Eastern Indigo Snake.
National Park Service: Everglades National Park Species Spotlight.

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About the Author

Growing up in rural New England on a small scale farm gave me a lifelong passion for animals. I love learning about new wild animal species, habitats, animal evolutions, dogs, cats, and more. I've always been surrounded by pets and believe the best dog and best cat products are important to keeping our animals happy and healthy. It's my mission to help you learn more about wild animals, and how to care for your pets better with carefully reviewed products.

Indigo Snake FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are indigo snakes venomous?

No, indigo snakes are not venomous.

How do they hunt?

These snakes wait for prey to cross their territory, and then they strike with their teeth. They usually eat the heads first.

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. Male indigo snakes attack each other when competing for mates.
If frightened or attacked, these snakes make a unique defensive response. They flatten their necks, hiss loudly, and make the tips of their tails vibrate. This creates a buzzing or rattling sound. They may also respond by releasing a foul smell from their anal glands.

Where do indigo snakes live?

The indigo snake prefers warm, humid climates and longleaf pine forests. Snakes in northern Florida hibernate in the winter, but those in the southern part of the state rarely need to because it doesn’t get that cold.

What do indigo snakes eat?

They are carnivores, and they are usually the apex predator in their ecosystem. These large snakes regularly consume other, smaller snakes as their regular prey.

They also kill and eat venomous snakes, including diamondback rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, and copperheads. They can get bitten during these attacks, but they are immune to the snake venom. Their diet consists of:
• Snakes
Turtles
• Turtle eggs
Tortoises
• Baby alligators
• Lizards
Rodents
Fish
Frogs
Toads

Are there any indigo snakes in Texas?

No, there are no indigo snakes in Texas. Most of Texas is hot and dry, and indigo snakes prefer warm, humid wetlands.

What is the difference between an Indigo snake and a black racer?

The major difference is that Black racers weigh only 1-2 pounds, while indigo snakes weigh between 4-10 poundsIndigo snakes can be found only in the southeastern United States, in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. Black racers also live in the southeastern part of the United States, but they can be found as far north as southern Maine, and far west as eastern Texas.

Sources
  1. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Eastern Indigo Snake. (1970)
  2. Nature Conservancy: Eastern Indigo Snake. (1970)
  3. National Park Service: Everglades National Park Species Spotlight. (1970)

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