Rocky, a federally protected indigo snake, was killed in February. Georgia officials are investigating.

closeup of Rocky the indigo snake

Rocky the indigo snake, pictured when researchers captured him in November 2020, was killed in February 2021.

Credit: Oscar Thompson, UGA Coastal Ecology Lab

Wildlife officials in Georgia are investigating the death of a rare indigo snake named Rocky who was killed last month.

Eastern Indigo Snakes are a threatened species, so they’re federally protected. It’s also illegal to kill nonvenomous snakes in Georgia.

Harassing or killing a species protected by the Endangered Species Act is a felony punishable by fines, prison time and the revocation of hunting privileges. Killing a nonvenomous snake in Georgia carries a fine of up to $1,000 and up to a year in prison.

University of Georgia scientists were tracking Rocky for research, so they know he was killed in a Wildlife Management Area on February 17. 

“We can not overstate how disheartening it is when we lose snakes to human persecution,” the UGA Coastal Ecology Lab posted on its Facebook page.

The researchers have declined to say where the snake was killed to protect the species from further poaching.

Indigo snakes are a dark iridescent blue, nearly black. At eight to nine feet long, they are the longest snake in North America, according to Matt Elliott with the Department of Natural Resources.

He said indigos and other nonvenomous snakes are harmless to humans, and they kill pests such as rats and even other snakes.

“Venomous snakes are one of their favorite prey items,” Elliott said of the indigo snake species. “They actually will eat rattlesnakes and cottonmouths and things like that.”

Elliott said if you encounter a snake of any kind, it’s best to just leave it alone. If you need one removed from your yard, call a professional.