Facts About Southern Black Racer Snakes

Southern Black Racer.  It is not uncommon to find these Black Racer snakes in Florida in suburban yards.  They are less fearful of people than many other snakes and can become aggressive or even charge at people if they feel threatened.
Southern Black Racer. It is not uncommon to find these Black Racer snakes in Florida in suburban yards. They are less fearful of people than many other snakes and can become aggressive or even charge at people if they feel threatened. | Source

Southern Black Racers (coluber constrictor priapus) are a common subspecies of the coluber constrictor.

These snakes are nonvenomous and found throughout much of the Southeastern USA, including most of Florida.

Besides the Southern Black Racer, there are ten other subspecies of coluber constrictors.

The scientific name "constrictor" is misleading in some ways, however, when applied to this snake, as its behavior is very different to what many people would expect from a constrictor. Black Racers do not coil themselves around their prey, for example, instead they are more likely to crush their prey into the ground.

As its name suggests, this snake is mainly dark in color, with a black dorsal side, a gray belly and a white chin.

Black Racer waiting  for prey in dry leaves.  Photograph taken in in Carrboro, North Carolina, 2006.  Although the snake is an accomplished hunter, they are nonvenomous and therefore not threatening to humans, although their bite is still painful.
Black Racer waiting for prey in dry leaves. Photograph taken in in Carrboro, North Carolina, 2006. Although the snake is an accomplished hunter, they are nonvenomous and therefore not threatening to humans, although their bite is still painful. | Source

Habitat

Southern Black Racers prefer to live in wooded areas, brush and thicket, but can also be seen in more open ground, as long as there is cover nearby, such as long grass.

As they are very active in the daytime and less afraid of humans than most snakes, it is fairly common to see these snakes in suburban yards.

Although they are not venomous, they can be aggressive.

Size

The average size of this snake is between 20 and 55 inches (0.6 - 1.4 m) in length.

The longest Black Racer ever discovered measured 72 inches in length.

Food

Black Racers are predators and live on frogs, toads, small rodents, lizards, as well as other snakes.

They essentially eat any small animal that they can overpower through suffocation or crushing them into the ground.

Southern Black Racer photographed at St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park in Indian River County, Florida, U.S.A.  As their name suggests, these snakes can move quickly, either to attack prey, or escape predators.
Southern Black Racer photographed at St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park in Indian River County, Florida, U.S.A. As their name suggests, these snakes can move quickly, either to attack prey, or escape predators. | Source

Behavior

One of the key facts about Black Racers to remember is that they are fast moving, hence their name, and will use their speed to escape from most situations that they perceive as threatening.

If they are cornered, however, they can put up a strong fight and will bite hard and repeatedly.

They have also been known to charge at people to frighten them on rare occasions.

If they feel threatened, they are also known to vibrate their tails in leaves and grass in order to mimic the sound (and appearance) of a rattlesnake.

As well being very fast moving on land, these snakes are also exceptional swimmers and tree climbers.

Did You Know?

The Southern Black Racer is thought to be colorblind.

Like other snakes, this snake sheds its skin several times a year.

The Black Racer is similar in appearance and habit to its close relative, the Blue Racer. They sometimes interbreed with the resultant offspring having characteristics of both snake types.

Although th Black Racer is a good climber, it spends most of its time on the ground.

Black Racer on Merritt Island, Florida.  These snakes are common in Florida and can often be found in suburban yards.  They feel less threatened by humans than most other snakes.
Black Racer on Merritt Island, Florida. These snakes are common in Florida and can often be found in suburban yards. They feel less threatened by humans than most other snakes. | Source

Breeding

Adult Racers are solid black, but juveniles are blotched gray and reddish brown. Adult racers are typically around 24–55 inches (0.6 - 1.4 m) long. They can be longer but rarely exceed 70 inches (1.8 m).

These snakes breed and lay eggs between March and August. The female lays up to 23 eggs. Young, freshly hatched racers measure around 6 inches (15 cm) in length.

As with other reptiles, Black Racers do not protect their young, nor feed their young.

Juveniles are blotched gray and reddish brown in color which serves them well as camouflage.

Did You Know?

Black Racers can sometimes be mistaken for Indigo Snakes. It should be noted that Black Racers have white chins, however, whereas the Indigo Snake's is dark to reddish orange.

Bites

Southern Black Racers do not like being handled by people generally. Even if they have been in captivity for many months, they will usually lash out.

As mentioned earlier, normally these snakes will slink away when faced with a human, but they can be aggressive and can even charge at people sometimes.

Although this snake's bite is nonvenomous and therefore not dangerous, it can still be painful.

Enemies and Threats

Man is the biggest enemy of these snakes. Many are killed on the roads by cars.

Because of their white chins, these snakes are sometimes mistaken for the venomous Water Moccasin (also known as a Cottonmouth) in Florida and killed through misplaced fear.

Non-human enemies of black Racers are mainly birds of prey, which swoop down on them from above.

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Comments 11 comments

Jlava73 profile image

Jlava73 5 years ago from Cyberspace and My Own World

Gross Snake,Great Article!


DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 5 years ago from Iowa

I hate snakes, so I had to read this! (Kind of like not being able to look away from a car accident.) : ) Interesting article.


jperry106 profile image

jperry106 5 years ago from Castle Hayne NC

I really came upon a Black Racer and if I did I might do the same as everyone else. Most people believe that the only good snake is a dead snake.


PaulGoodman67 profile image

PaulGoodman67 5 years ago from Florida USA Author

I encounter Southern Black Racers fairly regularly down here in Florida, I've seen five of them in the last six months. As soon as I know it's not a Water Moccasin/Cottonmouth, I relax a bit. It's important to remember that snakes form an important part of the ecosystem, even if us humans don't like them.


cgreen7090 profile image

cgreen7090 5 years ago from Tennessee

Although I cringe at the thought of encountering these, I do appreciate the need for education about them. Thanks for publishing a hub dedicated to black racers. Recently upon leaving church after a rainstorm, my son and his friend stepped on one trying to come in out of the rain. It whipped away so fast, we barely knew what to think. I'm glad they are not poisonous, although we do have cottonmouths, copperheads, and rattlesnakes in Tennessee. Keep writing!


gbenga 4 years ago

hw they take managed with all these snakes


Lin 4 years ago

I saw a black racer so freaked out


smassie57 4 years ago

Years ago when living in Palm City, FL, my wife opened the front door to the house to find a Black Racer on the door step. It scared both of them! The snake made a mad dash for the first safe place it could find, which was in the house and up inside the couch.

I got a call at work. COME GET THIS SNAKE OUT OF MY HOUSE!!!

Ever try to get a snake out of a couch? No?! Well, it tain't easy. And when Paul here says they will strike out, he's not kidding. They are very grumpy snakes and if they have something to push against, they can strike farther than their own length. Uhm yeah, take my word on that.


chick 4 years ago

do they live in virginia? i have a mean baby snake in a jar right now!


asnakelover 3 years ago

This article, though informative, does not adequately describe their behavior in captivity. I have 3 adults, all wild caught, (well, one was found in a pool and the other two were found in the road, one actually got run over, but their tough) and they are as tame as any rat snake. They feed readily on live prey and after being tamed down for a week each, have never struck at me or anyone else.


still shaking 18 months ago

heard and saw a bird swooping around and around. when I looked down at the pile of leaves, there was the snake. still trying to decide what to do. thanks for the article, it helped!!

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