By Vern and Lori Gieger
time to time we get a request to write about specific specie, so this
one goes to you Becky. Hope you enjoy it!
What is big, black, has a long tail and could be considered man’s
best friend? No, not your neighbors Lab. This “friend” doesn’t
even have legs. And certainly doesn’t fetch.
The Indigo Snake, known locally as the
Tilcuate, is one of the largest non venomous snakes in North America.
The indigo as its English name implies is dark bluish black with a metallic
luster in the sun. It is a very imposing snake; the longest documented
length is 8.7 feet. The indigo snake’s huge size and gentle demeanor
in captivity, have long made it a favorite with carnivals, sideshows
and exotic pet dealers.
Unfortunately, the natural resources of
this snake were used up quickly for development and profit. Population
declines had been so substantial in 1979, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service listed indigo snakes as a “threatened species” and
were given special protection. Now in the U.S. it may not be even touched
in its natural habitats, much less caught. For a snake species to be
federally listed, the problem has to be bad, as snakes are not typically
high on the list of people’s favorite animals.
Populations of the indigo snake have also
been dramatically affected not only in the U.S. but here in Mexico as
well. Scattered populations are found from South Carolina to Texas,
Mexico to Argentina. Indigos face many threats besides their natural
predators. Automobile traffic takes a heavy toll. So does indiscriminate
killing and illegal capture for pets. As with most troubled species,
the Indigo snake suffers from habitat loss and fragmentation and lack
of consideration that the lives of all creatures, including humans,
are intimately linked.
Indigos are a natural and integral component
of the ecosystem. As predators, they are invaluable for their role in
maintaining the balance of nature by helping to keep populations of
their prey in check. Their prey consists of everything from earthworms
to rabbits, and this includes other snakes, including rattlesnakes.
Indigos are immune to the poisons of some venomous snakes. Moreover,
they are especially important in the control of rodents. Beyond doubt
they are a farmer’s best friend!
Indigos are greedy, and always hungry.
Being very active snakes; they spend a great deal of time foraging for
food. Indigos are one of the few truly diurnal snake species, meaning
that they are active during the day and rest at night.
In late spring, females lay 5-12 large
eggs in an underground burrow or other cavity. The snake eggs hatch
in about three months into patterned hatchlings. The hatchlings may
be up to two feet in length, the babies grow rapidly and may reach adult
size in two to three years. Unfortunately, few survive to reach maturity.
When encountered in the wild, they may
feel threatened, and in turn will shake their tail very fast, coil back
and hiss. More than likely though it will make a quick getaway, if possible.
If one tries to capture a wild Tilcuate, they may be in for quite a
surprise! Indigos can become quite aggressive and strike repeatedly
at their would be captor.
As with any wild animal one should not
try to capture them. Rather simply enjoy the privilege of being able
to see them in their natural habitat.