Did The King Ranch Import Blue Indigo Snakes To Texas?

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The Texas Indigo snake, also known as the blue indigo or by its scientific name “Drymarchon melanurus erebennus”, is a species of snake that lives in Texas and Mexico. Ranchers love this snake because it is fond of eating rattlesnakes. Some locals call them “blue snakes”, “indigo snakes” and even “king snakes.” King snakes are an unrelated species. The reason that some people call them King snakes is that there is a persistent rumor, passed on through the generations, that this snake was imported by the owners of  the famous King Ranch of South Texas. The King ranch was founded by Captain Richard King and is still in existence today, encompassing over 860,000 acres. The story told by many South Texans is that Blue Indigo snakes were imported by Captain Richard King, or the latter owners of the King Ranch the Kleberg family, from India to control rattlesnakes. The problem with this story is that it is not true.

Texas indigo snakes have been living in the region, as far south as Veracruz Mexico, for thousands of years. I suspect that there may be some valid reason for the King Ranch connection with the indigo snake. It is possible that the King Ranch’s owners may have instructed employees to catch any Texas indigo snakes outside of the property and relocate them on the ranch. This may have caused a concentration of “blue snakes” in the region and people began to associate them as originating from the King Ranch. The King Ranch has been responsible for introducing a number of exotic species, such as the Nilgai antelope to Texas and cultivating hybrid grasses such as King Ranch Bluestem, which has been spread around the state by the Texas Highway Department.

The Santa Gertrudis cattle breed originated on the ranch as well.  With such widespread programs of species importation it was not far fetched that the King Ranch imported the indigo snake to Texas. Texas indigo snakes are non poisonous. They can grow to lengths of up to nine feet or more. I grew up hearing stories of blue indigo snakes over ten feet long and have personally seen several over eight feet long in the wild.  The Texas indigo snake can swallow a rattlesnake whole and is mostly immune to the snake’s venom. For this reason they are loved by farmers and ranchers. Sadly the pet snake trade has reduced their number. These are very tame snakes and their docile nature has been their downfall. I have seen them picked up and handled with little protest from the snake. When I was young and growing up in South Texas we had an indigo snake living under our house for several years. We were glad to have it there because where you find a “blue indigo” you will not find rattlesnakes.

Below is a photo of a Texas indigo snake from Wikipedia:

Blue indigo snakes are protected by law. They are non venomous and don’t harm humans in any way. They are an essential part of the ecosystem and have evolved along with rattlesnakes and help keep that species under control.  If you see one don’t move it or handle it. Let it go along its way. The rattlesnake it eats for dinner just might be the one that might have bitten you had the Texas indigo snake not been around.

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  • One Response to “Did The King Ranch Import Blue Indigo Snakes To Texas?”

    1. John "Moe" Moceika on 18. Jun, 2010

      When my In-Laws lived near Riviera they had a few chickens couped up out back of the house. One afternoon my nephew came running in the house in a panic. “Theres a huge snake in the chicken coup” he exclaimed very excitedly. I ran out to the coup with shovel in hand only to discover a Blue Indigo snake that measured just over 8 feet long. The snake struck at me only once when I tried to pick it up for removal from the coup. Once I had it in hand it remained very calm. I had all the kids touch the snake and hold it if they wanted to. The snake was just over 8 feet long and about the diameter of a 4 inch hose. Very healthy! I took the snake away from the house and let it loose in a field. Beautiful animal.