Eastern Indigo Snake (Drymarchon couperi)
In September of 1999, children in South Georgia killed an eastern indigo snake. Very proud of their "heroic feat" they published the photo in the local news paper. State and Federal wildlife officials then announced an initiative to step-up education efforts about this federally protected species.
The eastern indigo snake used to range from South Carolina through Florida and west to southeastern Mississippi. Today, it is found only in South Georgia and Florida. Since 1978, this non-venomous snake has been protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act. Under the Act it is illegal to kill, harm or harass any endangered species, including the eastern indigo snake. The eastern indigo snake is also protected under Georgia's Endangered Wildlife Act.
Instead of wanting to prosecute kids, USFWS stated they would rather turn this into an educational opportunity by doing whatever we can to protect this species, and that means making sure that this type of thing doesn't happen again.
A person found killing an eastern indigo snake is subject to prosecution under the Federal Endangered Species Act which may result in one year in jail and a $50,000 fine. So, making sure people understand about endangered species is important.
Because the eastern indigo snake is seldom seen by most Georgians, few know of its existence and how to recognize it. We feel that even if you teach someone how to recognize a snake, this in itself usually doesn't give them reason to take efforts to preserve it.
The more exposure the citizens of Georgia have to this snake and the laws that protect it, the least likely they will be in the future to want to destroy it.
Loss of habitat is the primary reason for a continued decrease in wild populations of eastern indigo snakes. Another, is humans purposely killing them believing that the only good snake is a dead snake. Laws and other restrictions can be implemented throughout the state but the only effective way to overcome this obstacle is education.
Eastern Indigo Snake facts:
The eastern indigo snake is the longest snake in North America, attaining a maximum length of 8 ½ feet. It is a very stout snake, with iridescent blue-black coloring and no pattern on the body other than the reddish or cream coloration on the chin and throat. Eastern indigo snakes are most often found in sandy, upland pine habitats as well as near ponds and rivers and swamps. In the winter, they find shelter in gopher tortoise burrows. The eastern indigo snake is a top predator whose diet consists of small mammals, birds, young turtles, frogs, and other snakes, including rattlesnakes and cottonmouths. The eastern indigo snake does not constrict its prey as some other snakes do, but instead overpowers its prey with its strong jaws.
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