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Species Description

Eastern Racer

Coluber constrictor


Species Image

Classification

Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae

Description

Adults in the eastern and southeastern United States are uniformly black, both above and below, with smooth scales and a satiny appearance. Juveniles are patterned with a row of dark gray, brown, or reddish brown blotches down the length of the back. These are set against a background color of gray or bluish gray. This pattern disappears as the animal matures and the solid black color is present by the time individuals reach 90 cm (35.4 in) in length. The Eastern Racer is a large, slender-bodied snake averaging 90 - 152 cm (35.4 - 59.8 in) in total length. The record is 185.4 cm (73 in) in total length. Hatchlings average about 29 cm (11.4 in) in total length. Racers are sexually mature by the time they reach 90 cm (35.4 in) in length. Females grow slightly larger than males.

Life Cycle

The Eastern Racer mates in the spring between March through May. Between May and June, 4 - 25 eggs are laid in warm, moist sites under logs, rocks, boards, in rotten stumps, sawdust piles, or in loose soils. The eggs hatch about two months later.

Natural History

The Eastern Racer is a very active snake and is most frequently seen in open pine forests, forest edges, old fields, pastures, and meadows. It also is often seen crossing the road on warm, sunny spring days. It takes cover under rocks, logs, boards, or other suitable shelter, and is often found around abandoned farm homes and buildings. This fast-moving snake depends upon its speed and agility to avoid predators and catch prey. It is a diurnal forager that uses its keen eyesight to find a wide variety of prey, including insects, frogs, lizards, smaller snakes, birds, and small mammals. In turn, it is eaten by other snakes, hawks, and small carnivorous mammals. The Eastern Racer has a high-strung disposition. If cornered or attacked it will vibrate its tail, thrash about, bite viciously, and discharge a foul-smelling musk from the vent.

Range

Eastern Racer Region Map The Eastern Racer occurs in suitable habitat throughout Georgia and over most of the eastern United States.

Conservation Status

This is one of the more common snakes in the southeastern United States.

Similar Species

The black phase of the Rat Snake has weakly keeled scales on the middle of the back and the body is shaped like a loaf of bread in cross section. The black phase of the Coachwhip has light pigment on the rear portion of its body and has a reddish tail.