Wondrous Wildlife
By Vern and Lori Gieger
Impressive Indigos

     From 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.