Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the May 26, 2007 Newsletter issued from Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, QUERÉTARO, MÉXICO

Above a cliff of outcropping limestone next to the lake I was hiking an overgrown cattle trail through scrub paying more attention to keeping my balance on the steep slope than anything. Then I saw it: Not a yard from my leg rose the front end of a massive, blue-gray snake between six and seven feet long, his head hooked forward and pointed at my right knee. My first thought was, "Well, I've been looking for you for a long time!"

For, it was an old friend. Back in the early 70s when I was a graduate student at the University of Kentucky one of my favorite teachers, Dr. Roger Barbour, used to keep one of these giants he'd picked up in Florida on the top floor of the tower of the Funkhauser Building, which at that time hosted most biology classes. Often I'd visit the snake and the nice lady who cared for Dr. Barbour's critters. The snake was one of the most gentle, agreeable animals I've ever met, and the lady was nice, too. I developed very pleasant associations with this species.

It was an Indigo Snake, DRYMARCHON CORAIS, North America's longest snake, the record being 103.5 inches (262.8 cm, over 8.6 feet). In the US the species occurs in Florida and Georgia, with old records placing it in other states as well, but those populations appear to have been wiped out because of habitat destruction and intentional killing. As the species is understood now, it's distributed south to Brazil. There's talk about separating populations found west of the Mississippi River, which includes ours, into the species D. melanurus.

By the time I'd pulled off my backpack (I'd camped overnight in the area) and got my camera set up, the Indigo had slipped over the cliff. However, just a few feet away I found a shed skin, which I photographed next to my 12.5-inch long sandal for scale. You can see that image below:


You can see somebody else's Indigo Snake at http://www.hoglezoo.org/animals/view.php?id=58.

Back at the casita I looked up the Indigo in Jonathan Campbell's herp book which previously I used in the Yucatan. It said that Indigos in the southern US have "... a reputation for being docile and mild-mannered. This is not true of tropical indigos, which are easily irritated to the point of inflating the throat and vibrating the tail, and often delivering a powerful, although nonvenomous, bite." I got a twang in my right knee when I read that.

In the US, Indigos are listed in the US Federal Register as threatened.