Standard Protection Measures for the Eastern Indigo Snake
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Last Updated: April 14, 2022 (updated Georgia ES email address)
The eastern indigo snake protection/education plan (Plan) below has been developed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in Florida and Georgia for use by applicants and their construction personnel. At least 30 days prior to any clearing/land alteration activities, the applicant shall notify the appropriate USFWS Field Office via e-mail that the Plan will be implemented as described below (Jacksonville, Florida Field Office: firstname.lastname@example.org; Vero Beach, Florida Field Office: email@example.com; Panama City, Florida Field Office: firstname.lastname@example.org; Athens, Georgia Field Office: email@example.com). As long as the signatory of the e-mail certifies compliance with the below Plan (including use of the attached poster and pamphlet), no further written confirmation or approval from the USFWS is needed and the applicant may move forward with the project.
If the applicant decides to use an eastern indigo snake protection/education plan other than the approved Plan below, written confirmation or approval from the USFWS that the plan is adequate must be obtained. At least 30 days prior to any clearing/land alteration activities, the applicant shall submit their unique plan for review and approval. The USFWS will respond via e-mail, typically within 30 days of receiving the plan, either concurring that the plan is adequate or requesting additional information. A concurrence e-mail from the appropriate USFWS Field Office will fulfill approval requirements.
The Plan materials should consist of: 1) a combination of posters and pamphlets (see Poster Information section below); and 2) verbal educational instructions to construction personnel by supervisory or management personnel before any clearing/land alteration activities are initiated (see Pre-Construction Activities and During Construction Activities sections below).
POSTER & PAMPHLET INFORMATION
Posters with the following information shall be placed at strategic locations on the construction site and along any proposed access roads (a final poster for Plan compliance, to be printed on 11 x 17in or larger paper and laminated, is attached). Pamphlets should be printed on 8.5 x 11in paper and folded, and available and distributed to staff working on the site.
DESCRIPTION: The eastern indigo snake is one of the largest non-venomous snakes in North America, with individuals often reaching up to 8 feet in length. They derive their name from the glossy, blue-black color of their scales above and uniformly slate blue below. Frequently, they have orange to coral reddish coloration in the throat area, yet some specimens have been reported to only have cream coloration on the throat.
These snakes are not typically aggressive and will attempt to crawl away when disturbed. Though indigo snakes rarely bite, they should NOT be handled.
SIMILAR SNAKES: The black racer is the only other solid black snake resembling the eastern indigo snake. However, black racers have a white or cream chin, thinner bodies, and WILL BITE if handled.
LIFE HISTORY: The eastern indigo snake occurs in a wide variety of terrestrial habitat types throughout Florida and Georgia. Although they have a preference for uplands, they also utilize some wetlands and agricultural areas and often move seasonally between upland and lowland habitats, particularly in the northern portions of its range (North Florida and Georgia). Eastern indigo snakes will often seek shelter inside gopher tortoise burrows and other below- and above-ground refugia, such as other animal burrows, stumps, roots, and debris piles. Reliance on xeric sandhill habitats throughout the northern portion of the range in northern Florida and Georgia is due to the dependence on gopher tortoise burrows for shelter during winter. Breeding occurs during October through February. Females may lay from 4 - 12 white eggs as early as April through June, with young hatching in late July through October.
PROTECTION UNDER FEDERAL AND STATE LAW: The eastern indigo snake is classified as a Threatened species by both the USFWS and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Taking of eastern indigo snakes is prohibited by the Endangered Species Act without a permit is defined by the USFWS as an attempt to kill, harm, harass, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, trap, capture, collect, or engage in any such conduct. Penalties include a maximum fine of $25,000 for civil violations and up to
$50,000 and/or imprisonment for criminal offenses, if convicted.
Only individuals currently authorized through an issued Incidental Take Statement in association with a USFWS Biological Opinion, or by a Section 10(a)(1)(A) permit issued by the USFWS, to handle an eastern indigo snake are allowed to do so.
IF YOU SEE A LIVE EASTERN INDIGO SNAKE ON THE SITE:
• Cease clearing activities and allow the live eastern indigo snake sufficient time to move away from the site without interference;
• Personnel must NOT attempt to touch or handle snake due to protected status.
• Take photographs of the snake, if possible, for identification and documentation purposes. Â
• Immediately notify supervisor or the applicants designated agent, and the appropriate USFWS office, with the location information and condition of the snake.
• If the snake is located in a vicinity where continuation of the clearing or construction activities will cause harm to the snake, the activities must halt until such time that a representative of the USFWS returns the call (within one day) with further guidance as to when activities may resume.
IF YOU SEE A DEAD EASTERN INDIGO SNAKE ON THE SITE:
• Cease clearing activities and immediately notify supervisor or the applicants designated agent, and the appropriate USFWS office, with the location information and condition of the snake.
• Take photographs of the snake, if possible, for identification and documentation purposes.
• Thoroughly soak the dead snake in water and then freeze the specimen. The appropriate wildlife agency will retrieve the dead snake.
Telephone numbers of USFWS Florida Field Offices to be contacted if a live or dead eastern indigo snake is encountered:
Jacksonville, Florida Field Office: (904) 731-3336 Panama City, Florida Field Office: (850) 769-0552
Vero Beach, Florida Field Office: (772) 562-3909
Athens, Georgia Field Office: (706) 613-9493
- The applicant or designated agent will post educational posters in the construction office and throughout the construction site, including any access roads. The posters must be clearly visible to all construction staff. A sample poster is attached.
- Prior to the onset of construction activities, the applicant/designated agent will conduct a meeting with all construction staff (annually for multi-year projects) to discuss identification of the snake, its protected status, what to do if a snake is observed within the project area, and applicable penalties that may be imposed if state and/or federal regulations are violated. An educational brochure including color photographs of the snake will be given to each staff member in attendance and additional copies will be provided to the construction superintendent to make available in the onsite construction office (a final brochure for Plan compliance, to be printed double-sided on 8.5 x 11in paper and then properly folded, is attached). Â Photos of eastern indigo snakes may be accessed on USFWS and/or FWC or GADNR websites.
- Construction staff will be informed that in the event that an eastern indigo snake (live or dead) is observed on the project site during construction activities, all such activities are to cease until the established procedures are implemented according to the Plan, which includes notification of the appropriate USFWS Field Office. The contact information for the USFWS is provided on the referenced posters and brochures.
DURING CONSTRUCTION ACTIVITIES
- During initial site clearing activities, an onsite observer may be utilized to determine whether habitat conditions suggest a reasonable probability of an eastern indigo snake sighting (example: discovery of snake sheds, tracks, lots of refugia and cavities present in the area of clearing activities, and presence of gopher tortoises and burrows).
- If an eastern indigo snake is discovered during gopher tortoise relocation activities (i.e. burrow excavation), the USFWS shall be contacted within one business day to obtain further guidance which may result in further project consultation.
- Periodically during construction activities, the applicants designated agent should visit the project area to observe the condition of the posters and Plan materials, and replace them as needed. Construction personnel should be reminded of the instructions (above) as to what is expected if any eastern indigo snakes are seen.
POST CONSTRUCTION ACTIVITIES
Whether or not eastern indigo snakes are observed during construction activities, a monitoring report should be submitted to the appropriate USFWS Ecological Services Field Office within 60 days of project completion. The report can be sent electronically to the appropriate USFWS e-mail address listed on page one of this Plan.
Check out the Draft EIS Recovery Implementation Strategy for more information!