Black Racer (snake)

Description

While adults are black, juvenile racers are gray with large brown, black or reddish blotches down their backs, small spots dot their sides and they have large, dark eyes. As they age the pattern fades, disappearing when the snake reaches 25-30 inches in length. Average lifespan is ten years.

Habitat
Behavior
Diseases
Resources
Habitat

Black racers are common snakes that utilize a variety of habitats including rocky ledges, pastures, overgrown fields, dry or moist woodlands and the edges of wetlands.

Behavior

Racers mate in the spring, and females deposit 10-12 eggs in small mammal burrows, under rocks or logs, or in mulch piles or rotting logs. Eggs laid in June or July normally hatch in August and September. During the spring breeding season males may be defending females and/or territories and occasionally approach an intruder, mouth agape, and tail vibrating. In leaf litter the tail sounds like a rattlesnake (well, roughly; but to the uninitiated, it’s close enough). An encounter with such an animal often ends with a dead snake and an ignorant person thinking they “did the right thing.”

The preferred diet is small mammals, other snakes and insects, although racers take a wide variety of prey. They will even feed on young of their own species. Racers are a preferred diet for birds of prey. Active primarily during the day, racers are commonly seen as they bask on shrubs, rocks, ledges and roads, and are tolerant of summer temperatures that would drive other snakes to seek shelter. Aptly named, racers are very fast and typically flee from danger. However, once cornered they put up a vigorous fight, biting hard and often. Rattling their tails among dry leaves, racers can sound convincingly like rattlesnakes. If captured they are difficult to handle and will writhe, defecate and spray musk in an attempt to escape.

Diseases

No known zoonotic diseases exist

Resources

Hotline Info

Advice

Actionable