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Conservation that Works with Wildlife

By Sharon Holbrooks, USDA-NRCS AthensMatt Moore, a volunteer for The Orianne Society, holding a large male Eastern Indigo Snake.

As proof that restoration of habitats on our Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) easements reaches further than just wetland species, this Eastern Indigo Snake, a federally threatened snake under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), was recently photographed on the upland of one of Georgia’s permanent WRP easements.

The Eastern Indigo Snake (Drymarchon couperi) is a species of large nonvenomous snake native to the Eastern United States. It is the longest native snake species in the U.S. In Georgia, from December to April, eastern indigo snakes prefer habitats commonly referred to as “sandhills” for winter denning territory. These “sandhills” are common upland buffers on south Georgia’s WRP easements. From May to July snakes shift from winter dens to summer territories; from August through November they are located more frequently in shady creek bottoms than during other seasons.

The distribution of the Eastern indigo snakeThese snakes are often found near, in, and around gopher tortoise burrows, which make them a great gopher tortoise conservation partner species. They feast on a variety of small birds and mammals, snakes (including all venomous species), turtles, lizards, frogs, toads and they will eat all types of eggs.

This is why in the WRP program, the wetland to upland ratio, often one (1) acre of upland for every one (1) acre of wetland protected, is so critical. These snakes, along with many of their counterparts, need a mix of wetland and upland habitat to survive through all seasons. To top it off, the upland buffers on the WRP easements provides great water quality protection for the wetland resources that we are enhancing and protecting with our program.An Eastern Indigo Snake, over five feet in length, outside of a Gopher Tortoise Burrow.

For more information on the Wetlands Reserve Program, please visit our website or contact Sharon Holbrooks Conservation Easement Specialist.

To learn more about these snakes in Georgia, The Orianne Society, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and private forest landowners partner together collaboratively to monitor known populations and identify new ones.