Wildlife experts in northwest Florida have released 20 eastern indigo snakes into the wild as part of an attempt to help the species recover in the region.
Indigo snakes, which are federally threatened, can measure nearly 10 feet but are not venomous or dangerous to humans.
The snakes, however, are beneficial to a balanced environment as apex predators that prey largely on small animals and other snakes, including venomous snakes.
The northwest Florida snake release, announced Monday by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), marked the second stage of a reintroduction effort that began last year. The effort involved several conservation groups and state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The 20 snakes were released into The Nature Conservancy’s Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve.
Eastern indigo snakes, which are blue-black in color, were once common throughout much of Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and southeast Mississippi. But their range has diminished significantly because of fragmentation and habitat loss.
Eastern indigo snakes have all but vanished in northern Florida. Before the release of 12 indigo snakes into the preserve last year, the last documented sighting was in 1982.
It’s hoped that the reintroduction effort will establish a viable population within the 6,295-acre preserve.
“We continue our dedication to creating a healthy, balanced, and restored longleaf pine ecosystem at the Conservancy’s Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve and throughout the region, to encourage the recovery of the eastern indigo snake and support many other important plants and wildlife,” Temperince Morgan, Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy in Florida, stated in a news release. “This second annual release results from the teamwork of an incredible group of partners.”
The preserve is located in the Apalachicola Bay region and considered one of five biological hotspots in North America, in terms of species diversity.
Stated Kipp Frohlich, Director of Habitat and Species Conservation for the FWC: “The release of 20 eastern indigo snakes is another step forward toward our goal of reestablishing this iconic imperiled species back into the habitats of northwest Florida. It’s a testament to what can be accomplished working together with many committed conservation partners.”
–Photos showing the reintroduction of eastern indigo snakes in northwest Florida are courtesy of Tim Donovan