Indigo Snake and Wildlife Fest Friday in CNF

Published 1:56 am Saturday, April 28, 2018

The Conecuh National Forest will host the Indigo Snake and Wildlife Fest on Friday, May 4.

The event is open to schools from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the public is invited to attend from 2:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Visitors can learn more about the threatened Eastern indigo snake, the local longleaf pine ecosystem and gopher tortoises and the many species that benefit from their burrows.

School groups and the public can also interact with animals and meet with wildlife biologists and foresters from various state, federal and private conservation organizations.

The Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, and other partner conservation groups are hosting the festival.

The Eastern indigo snake is a protected and threatened species throughout its historic range, which consists of southeast Mississippi, South Alabama, the Florida panhandle and parts of South Georgia.

According to the National Park Service, the Eastern indigo snake reaches lengths of almost nine feet, making it the longest native snake in the United States.

Eastern indigo snakes were listed as threatened because of dramatic population declines caused by over-collecting for the domestic and international pet trade as well as mortalities caused by rattlesnake collectors who gassed gopher tortoise burrows to collect snakes.

In recent years, WFF and other conservation groups have led an effort to reintroduce the nonvenomous Eastern indigo snake to the Conecuh National Forest.

“Most people wonder why we would want to reintroduce snakes back into the wild,” WFF State Wildlife Grants Coordinator Traci Wood said. “But the indigo snake serves an important ecological function and is an essential component of the longleaf pine landscape. It is at the top of the food chain and affects how well other animals manage.”

Wood said that the WFF hopes to share with the public the importance of the indigo snake.

“Re-establishing the Eastern indigo within its historic range would also help restore a piece of Alabama’s natural history.”

The WFF State Wildlife Grants Program has a commitment to continue funding the indigo project over the next several years.

The event will be at the Conecuh National Forest Open Pond Day Area.

To arrange for school class attendance, contact Charles Simon of the Covington County Extension Office at 334-222-1125. For general information about the festival, contact Wood at 334-353-0503.