ADCNR Releases 40 Eastern Indigo Snakes into Conecuh National Forest

A significant milestone has been achieved in the effort to restore the Eastern indigo snake population in Alabama. On May 11, 2024, a total of 40 indigos were released into the Conecuh National Forest. The primary objective of this reintroduction project is to establish a sustainable population of these endangered snakes, allowing them to thrive once again in their historical habitat along Alabama’s Gulf Coast.

Representatives from various organizations including the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR), Auburn University, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Zoo Atlanta, and the Orianne Center for Indigo Conservation at the Central Florida Zoo gathered at the Conecuh National Forest in Covington and Escambia counties, located in south Alabama, for the indigo release.

According to Chris Blankenship, ADCNR commissioner, the restoration project aims to fill in a crucial gap in the longleaf pine forest along Alabama’s coastline.

According to Godwin, the completion of this release marks another milestone in bringing back indigos to Alabama. He also highlights the significance of this project as a role model for future reintroduction efforts, including the indigo reintroduction project in Florida. Initially a local wildlife conservation initiative in Alabama, it has proven that successful and sustained reintroduction efforts can lead to species recovery.

The Eastern indigo project began in 2006 and successfully initiated the release of captive-raised indigos in 2010, where 17 adult snakes were reintroduced into the Conecuh National Forest. The objective is to release a total of 300 snakes in order to enhance the likelihood of establishing a sustainable population. This current reintroduction project follows the footsteps of the late Dr. Dan Speake, a renowned professor at Auburn University, who pioneered similar efforts during the 1970s and 1980s.

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According to Godwin, every snake that has been released into the forest serves as a representative for the valuable partnerships that have made this project a reality. He emphasized the crucial role played by each partner and collaborator in the successful reintroduction of the indigo snake back into its natural habitat.

Traci Wood, the habitat and species conservation coordinator for ADCNR’s Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division, emphasized the significance of the collaborations involved in Alabama’s Eastern indigo reintroduction project.

“This project marks a crucial turning point,” Wood emphasized. “Over the course of 14 years, we have successfully released 284 snakes, with 40 being released this year alone, onto the Conecuh National Forest. It is truly remarkable that we have been able to restore this animal to Alabama’s ecosystem after its absence of over 50 years. None of this would have been possible without the invaluable support from our partners. This serves as a remarkable testament to the successful reintroduction of a species facing endangerment.”

Researchers use tracking devices called PIT (passive integrated transponder) tags to monitor the movements of the snakes after their release. Additionally, game cameras are set up at gopher tortoise burrows, which are frequented by various animals, including indigos, to further monitor the snakes.

Spring 2025 is the scheduled timeframe for the upcoming release of indigo in the Conecuh National Forest.

The Eastern indigo snake: a fascinating reptile.

The Eastern indigo snake is a captivating species of snake that is known for its unique characteristics and behaviors. This non-venomous snake can be found in the southeastern United States, mainly in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. With its glossy black color and smooth scales, the Eastern indigo snake stands out from other snake species.

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Being the longest snake native to the United States, the Eastern indigo snake can grow up to 8 feet in length. Its impressive size is complemented by its muscular body, allowing it to move swiftly and with precision. Despite its intimidating appearance, this snake is docile and rarely poses a threat to humans.

One interesting fact about the Eastern indigo snake is its diet. While most snakes primarily feed on rodents, this species has a diverse palate. Its diet includes small mammals, birds, reptiles, and even other snakes. This adaptability in diet showcases the Eastern indigo snake’s versatility as a predator.

In addition to its feeding habits, the Eastern indigo snake also plays a vital role in its ecosystem. As an apex predator, it helps control the population of smaller animals, thus maintaining the balance of the food chain. Its presence is crucial in preserving the biodiversity of its habitat.

Sadly, the Eastern indigo snake is currently listed as a threatened species by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Habitat loss, fragmentation, and illegal collection for the pet trade have greatly contributed to its decline in numbers. Efforts are being made to protect and conserve this magnificent species, including habitat restoration and captive breeding programs.

The Eastern indigo snake is not only a remarkable creature but also an indicator of the health of its ecosystem. Understanding and appreciating the importance of conserving this species will not only benefit the snake itself but also the entire ecosystem it calls home.

The Eastern indigo snake, an endangered and protected species, inhabits a significant region spanning southeast Mississippi, south Alabama, the Florida panhandle, and parts of south Georgia. This area was previously characterized by vast expanses of longleaf pine forest, renowned for its exceptional biodiversity in North America. In fact, a recent study conducted by herpetologists revealed that the Conecuh National Forest, encompassing 84,000 acres, boasts the highest number of amphibian and reptile species among all public land units in the country.

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The indigo snake vanished from Alabama’s landscape due to the decline of coastal longleaf pine habitat in the early 1900s. It was not until the reintroduction efforts began that the last wild indigo snake was observed in Alabama in the 1950s. Thanks to the restoration of the longleaf pine habitat, reintroduction efforts have become possible. As a result, two wild-born indigo snakes have been confirmed in Alabama since 2020.

The Eastern indigo snake, often mistaken for other black snakes in Alabama, stands out with its distinct physical characteristics and specific habitat range. What sets it apart are its striking iridescent blue-black color and impressive size. As the longest snake in North America, it can grow up to over 8 feet in length. Moreover, its diet includes small mammals, amphibians, lizards, and a variety of venomous snakes such as copperheads and rattlesnakes.

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