When wildlife experts need help balancing an ecosystem, they sometimes call on snakes. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recently released 20 eastern indigo snakes into the wild.
North America’s largest native snake is being reintroduced in Florida, helped on by a team of agencies and groups. Indigo snakes can grow to eight feet long, but their numbers have dwindled along with their habitat. Last year, 12 indigos were released in The Nature Conservancy’s Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Reserve. This year, 20.
Brooke Talley, conservation coordinator at FWC, studies snakes like the Eastern indigo and how it interacts with its ecosystem.
“When you put something like the Eastern indigo snake back into a place where it should’ve always been, you can see a better balance of all the species,” Talley said.
That’s because Indigo snakes prey on other snakes, like the poisonous Copperhead. When indigos die off, other snake species can flourish unchecked. Each indigo snake released has a radio transmitter that allow them to be monitored.
“What they’re looking for is to follow the snakes to see, number one, if they survive,” Talley said. “And number two, to see how they’re using that landscape.”
The indigo’s reintroduction is in symphony with efforts to boost the Long Leaf Pine population, its habitat. The Florida Forest Service has launched an incentive program for landowners to grow the native tree.
Indigo snakes are not poisonous, but Talley says like with most species, humans should keep a safe and respectful distance.
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