Today my endangered species permit arrived; allowing me to purchase my long awaited Indigo snake. She has hatched and is feeding, and I only had to wait for this permit to pick her up. What is an Eastern Indigo Snake? Well, they are the largest snakes in North America – they eat anything they can catch (including venomous snakes) – they are very powerful – very beautiful (a sort of black/dark blue with an iridescent blue shimmer) – they are very docile (except when feeding – they are the bald eagle of American snakes (it’s definitely a serpent that says “Don’t tread on me!”).
I found this article online. It’s the original description of the Indigo, published in 1842:
By John Edwards Holbrook
CHARACTERS. Head rather small, but distinct From neck, elongated, sub-oval, flattened above and at the sides; snout obtuse, slightly projecting; body thick; tail slender; color above deep bluish-black, with a metallic lustre in the sun; throat bluish-white, with blotches of pale red.
SYNONYME. Indigo Snake, or Gopher Snake.
DESCRIPTION. The head is rather small for the size of the animal, though distinct from the neck; it is sub-oval, narrow, flattened above, and at the sides, with the snout elongated and rounded anteriorly. The vertical plate is short, broad, pentagonal, and broadest before. The superior orbital are sub-trigonal and large, broadest externally. The frontal plates are broad and pentagonal. The anterior smaller and quadrilateral. The occipital are very large. There are two small pentagonal, posterior orbital plates, behind which are three temporal plates, the posterior largest. The anterior orbital is single, large, and incurvated posteriorly for the orbit. The Loral plate is single.
There are two large nasal plates, the anterior smaller, quadrilateral, and the posterior pentagonal. The rostral p1ate is large, sub-triangu1ar, round in front, but not much projecting. There are seven large superior labial plates, of which the sixth and seventh are largest, and the third and fourth are pentagonal, and form the lower wall of the orbit.
The nostrils are large, lateral near the snout, and open upwards, outwards, and a little backwards. The eyes are large, with both pupil and iris black. The neck is contracted, but less so than in the Black Snake. The body is elongated, but stout, and covered above with very large, smooth, hexagonal scales, and with broad plates below. The tail is of moderate length, and slender.
COLOUR. The head above is blue, or bluish-black; the throat is of a bluish white colour, with blotches of reddish flesh-colour. The superior surface of the animal is of a deep, bright bluish-black, of a beautiful metallic lustre in the sun; the anterior part of the abdomen of a light bluish slate-colour; the posterior part is of a darker shade, but of the same colour.
DIMENSIONS. Length of head: 2 inches, width, 18 lines; length of body, 75 inches, circumference, 7 inches; length of tail, 12 inches. In this specimen there were 186 abdominal plates, with a single one before the vent; and 62 bifid caudal plates. This snake frequently exceeds eight feet in length, and individuals have been seen ten feet long.
HABITS. J. Hamilton Couper, Esq. of St. Simon’s Island, Georgia, to whom I am indebted for a knowledge of this animal, says, “The Indigo Snake, or Gopher, combines strength and activity. Its movements are confined to the surface of the ground, in which they are free, and, for so large a snake, rapid. It is perfectly harmless, frequenting the neighbourhood of settlements, where it is usually unmolested, from its inoffensive character, and the prevalent belief that it destroys the Rattlesnake, which it attacks with courage. It is often found occupying the same hole with the Gopher (Testudo polyphemus), whence it receives one of its names~ Although a harmless snake, it is a bold one, and when provoked, it faces its enemy with courage, vibrating its tail rapidly. It is, however, so mild in character that it may be domesticated; and an instance is mentioned of the negro children of a neighbouring plantation being in the habit of holding on to the tail of one whilst it wandered about the yard.”
GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION. “I have only seen it in the dry pine hills, south of the Alatamaha; and I have never met with it in the low grounds even of the same vicinity.”
GENERAL REMARKS. Although in several respects resembling the Black Snake, it differs from it so very materially, that the two snakes cannot be confounded even by the most careless observer. Indeed, I only place this serpent provisionally among the Colubers, as I have not as yet had an opportunity of examining the anatomy of the animal.
I find it interesting that the author describes (twice) the snake as having “courage” and the description of the, “negro children of a neighbouring plantation being in the habit of holding on to the tail of one whilst it wandered about the yard.”
I have a picture of my baby, emailed by the breeder, but am having trouble posting it. Instead, here is a very nice picture of an indigo (showing its metallic blue shimmer).