Ohio State Reptile
Black Racer Snake (common name)
Coluber constrictor constrictor (scientific name)
The northern black racer is a swift, active snake. It is not poisonous and is shy of humans. It is, however, very territorial and will bite when frightened or to defend itself. Though the black racer has no venom, it does have very sharp teeth, and bites are usually quite painful. Predators include cats, dogs, birds, and coyotes. The black racer can sometimes interbreed with the blue racer snake, a closely related species with overlapping habitat, and offspring can resemble either of the parents or may have combined characteristics of both. This snake was designated the official reptile of Ohio in 1995.
ALSO KNOWN AS
Eastern racer, North American racer
The black racer is a slender snake. Adults are entirely black, deep gray, or a very deep bluish color with no markings on their backs. This racer’s belly is usually lighter, and it has white or gray markings on the underside of its chin and throat. A young snake is born with lighter skin and black, brown, or rusty spots on its back and sides, but the pattern fades with age. The black racer’s body is covered by smooth scales that make it look shiny. This snake has prominent eyes with round pupils, and a particularly slender, pointed tail.
Over 10 years in the wild
Rocky ledges, open grasslands, fields, pastures, light woods, and forests.
Range: Southernmost Canada south through Minnesota to Texas and all U.S. states to the east, and further south into Mexico and Guatemala.
Conservation Status: Least Concern (LC). Overall, numbers of black racer snakes remain good. In individual states, habitat fragmentation has reduced the snake’s range and population, so racers may be on the endangered species list in specific regions, but not nationwide. Conservation efforts focus on protection of important habitats, reducing road mortality, and reintroduction techniques.
A black racer snake is generally active during the day. It is curious, mobile, and quick, preferring open grassy areas where it can move and see well, though it generally stays close to good cover so it can hide easily if startled. One of its most effective adaptations for defense is its speed. It retreats quickly when confronted by a predator, and will bite if cornered or handled. It is well adapted to both climbing and swimming. It has excellent vision, and when moving on the ground occasionally raises its head above the grass to observe its surroundings.
Mating occurs between April and early June. A female lays eggs—as few as three or as many as 36—in a hollow log, a burrow built by another animal, sand, fallen leaves, or some other place that’s well out of sight. Sometimes back racer females choose a communal nest for their eggs. Young snakes emerge in late summer or early fall, fully formed and independent. They are mature when they’re about two years old.
Top land speed recorded: 8–10 mph (13–16 kph).
Small mammals, lizards, frogs, insects, and other snakes. Juveniles prefer insects such as crickets and moths.
Breeding interval: Annual
Hatching period: August–September
Average nest size: 10–12 eggs
Size at birth: 7.5 in (19 cm) long
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Raw Data Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Author: World Trade Press