A-z - Animals

Texas Indigo Snake

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These snakes mate in winter and then lay their eggs in abandoned burrows in spring. They lay 3-12 eggs and hatch hatchlings in summer that are 14-18 inches long but can reach 24 inches. They are one of the longest species in North America, typically reaching 6-8 feet in length; snakes approaching 10 feet have been reported but have not been confirmed.

Their range extends from central Texas to northern Mexico, and until recently, the Texas indigo snake was on the Texas State Protection List.


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Amazing Facts About Texas Indigo Snakes

  • They appear to be at least partially resistant to rattlesnake venom.
  • This is great if you have poisonous snakes near you.
  • They'll eat anything they can overwhelm; birds, lizards, turtles, snakes, and rodents are all on their colorful menu.
  • They use brute force to subdue their prey, yet are surprisingly docile.

where to find them

Wild Texas Indigo Snake facing the camera
Texas indigo snakes are native to Texas, but their range extends into northern Mexico.

© Joe Farah/Shutterstock.com

These snakes inhabit areas south of San Antonio, Texas, northern Mexico, and as far as Veracruz where there are permanent water sources and grasslands, scrubland, or forests.

They spend their rest time under abandoned burrows, logs, and other items large enough to hide them, but Texas indigo snakes are active hunters, hunting for most of the day.

scientific name

A Texas blue snake emerges from a clay pot at the Central Florida Zoo Botanical Gardens. The snake's black vertical bars start below the eyes and extend to the labial (lip) scales.
The scientific name of the Texas indigo snake is Drymarchon melanurus erebennus.

© Wirestock Creators/Shutterstock.com

The Texas indigo snake ( Drymarchon melanurus erebennus) belongs to the same family of snakes as king snakes and boas. However, they are not shrinkers. Their scientific name Drymarchon roughly translates to "king of the forest," and melanurus is Greek for black.

All indigo snake species have smooth, very shiny scales that reflect an iridescent bluish-purple in the light, hence their common name.

Types of Indigo Snakes

Until recently, all indigo snakes were classified as a subspecies of Drymarchon corais, and even some government websites still reflect this. However, genetic studies suggest five distinct species; given more time and research, we might discover many more.

Three of these occurred in North America:

  • D. melanurus erebennus lives primarily in southern Texas and northern Mexico. It is mostly black with some brown spots.
  • The D. corais couperi eastern indigo snake lives in the southeastern United States.
  • The newly discovered species, D. kolpobasileus, is endemic to the Gulf Coast of Florida and Mississippi. Its head shape is shorter and shallower than that of the eastern indigo snake.

Two species of indigo snakes inhabit Central and South America:

  • D. caudomaculatus, found in Venezuela and Colombia, has more brown spots than its northern relative
  • D. margaritae inhabits the West Margarita Islands and Venezuela .

History and Evolution

Like other snakes, Texas indigo snakes were formerly reptiles, but they had legs. These animals are more aquatic based. Snakes either lost their legs or degenerated as the snake relied less and less on them. It's fun imagining animals evolving legs and then losing them again! Since these snakes have adapted to live as low as possible to avoid enemies and get closer to their prey.

These particular snakes are very good at killing other snakes and other smaller animals. In the wild, competition from other species can lead to somewhat different outcomes over long periods of time. Extinction occurs when animal species are unable to adapt and overcome the competition described above. In this snake's case, the result was becoming stronger than other snakes in its area, and even becoming resistant to their venom.

Population and Conservation Status

The Texas Indigo Snake is a large, very long snake with a base color of iridescent black scales and brown spots.
It is illegal to collect Texas blue snakes in the wild without a permit, but they are no longer listed in Texas.

© Joe Farah/Shutterstock.com

For such a popular and well-loved snake, there is a surprising lack of formal research on its population numbers, stability in the wild, and longevity. We don't have exact population estimates and we can guess their lifespan in the wild is probably about 9 years. It is illegal to collect these snakes in the wild without a permit, but they are no longer listed in Texas nor on the IUCN Red List.

However, the Texas blue snake still faces challenges due to human encroachment. Each individual requires a wide territory to thrive, but they are quite mobile as long as there is a permanent source of water nearby. They tend to prefer grass and bushes that are somewhat dry; however, urban sprawl is reducing the amount of usable territory, and many blue snakes end up on the road, falling victim to vehicular encounters.

appearance and description

blue snake
The Texas Indigo Snake is a large, very long snake with a base color of iridescent black scales and brown spots.

© Radiant Reptilia/Shutterstock.com

The Texas indigo snake is a large, very elongated nonvenomous snake with iridescent black scales and brown spots as its base color. Their bellies are usually salmon-coloured, becoming creamier near the throat and bluish-black closer to the tail. Their black vertical bars start below the eyes and extend to the labial (lip) scales. In fact, seeing black vertical bars on the lip scales is a sign that North American snakes are not venomous, although this does not hold true on other continents.

Hatchlings emerge in summer and can grow up to 2 feet; there have been sightings of Texas indigo snakes nearly 10 feet long, but this has not been confirmed. Juveniles are usually solid black, but develop adult colors as they mature between 2-3 years of age.

How dangerous are they?

These snakes are generally docile and non-aggressive; for this reason and their beauty, many people keep them as pets. However, people who handle or harass the Texas Indigo snake may find its powerful bite powerful. It may also release a foul-smelling musk from its cloaca and even wag its tail.

Known for controlling rattlesnakes, Texas Indigo Snakes are a favorite of Texas farmers and ranchers. They are non-aggressive and therefore easy to observe from a respectful distance. There are multiple videos that show their prowess as rattlesnake hunters; in some of them, you can see a rattlesnake bite (and possibly poison) a Texas indigo snake, and still lose the fight.

Behavior and Humans

Texas Indigo Snake Closeup
Texas blue snakes are popular pets because of their beauty and easy-going attitude.

© Photographer: LA Dawson, animals courtesy of Austin Reptile Service. – License

Texas indigo snakes are very useful and they feed on many animals that humans consider annoying or, in the case of venomous snakes, dangerous. However, they require large hunting areas and are often run over by vehicles when crossing roads.

The Texas indigo snake will eat just about anything it can subdue with its size and strength; in addition to venomous snakes, its menu includes nonvenomous snakes such as horsewhip snakes, small mammals, lizards, turtles, and birds. They really aren't that picky. According to an article in the Naples News, "three mice, two Mexican burrowing toads, and two juvenile snapping turtles were found in the stomach contents of one specimen alone."

These snakes are revered in southern Texas for rodent and rattlesnake control. So much so that many families keep them as pets in their yards to keep rodents and poisonous snakes out. Even now, they are popular pets because of their beauty and easy-going attitude.

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No they are not. However, they do have a strong bite, which can be painful if bitten unhappy.

Indigo snakes are active daytime hunters. They usually rush out of their prey and then chase it to subdue it. They use their body mass and strength to subdue it by pressing it against a hard surface.

Usually not, but they protect themselves by biting with strong jaws or releasing a stinky musk from their cloaca.

Their range includes grasslands and forested areas near permanent water sources in southern Texas and northern Mexico.

Texas indigo snakes will eat any animal they can tame. Their favorite food seems to be any venomous snake in their range. They are large and strong, subduing their prey with brute force. They grab the head of their prey with their strong jaws and often push the prey onto hard surfaces (ground, rocks, etc.). Researchers found a Texas indigo snake with 2 mice, 2 hatchlings and a bird in its stomach.