Southern Black Racer

Southern Black Racer Snake

 ©Darlene B. Durham 2014

 

TGO Nature Center, Nature, Snake, Black Racer, Ribbon Snake, Education Series

Photo Courtesy of Darlene Durham

 

The southern black racer is a common sight at TGO and is probably the most familiar snake in Florida.   It is frequently seen due to residential areas being one of its favorite habitats where there is likely to be mice and rats and to the fact that the southern black racer hunts during the day.  We have at least one southern black racer which we frequently see in our back yard.

The southern black racer is a non-venomous snake.  It is aptly named for its satiny black or slate gray color and the speed of which it can move.  It is also referred to as a “blacksnake”.  Its body is slender with smooth scales and it has a white chin and throat and a gray to black underbelly.  This snake usually grows to a length of 20 to 56 inches but the record length is 72 inches.  Its eyes are round with reddish or chestnut brown irises.  The eyes are large for the size of the snake’s head.  Click on the above photo for a larger image of the black racer head.

The southern black racer is often mistaken for the eastern indigo snake.  However, the eastern indigo is a much heavier snake and it often has a reddish or rusty chin versus the white chin of the southern black racer.

When the southern black racer hunts in open areas, it will raise its head above the ground surveying the area and looking for prey.  This can be seen in the photos I took of our resident southern black racer in our backyard.  Their diet consists of other snakes (see photos below), frogs, lizards, rodents, insects, and birds and their eggs.  They do not constrict or inflict a poisonous bite to kill their prey but overpowers its prey by grabbing it with its sharp teeth, pressing it to the ground until it stops struggling and swallows its prey alive.  .

In addition to these snakes being found in residential areas as noted earlier, they can also be found in brushy areas, hardwood hammocks, prairies, pinelands, sandhills, scrub, and cypress strands.

Not only is the southern black racer fast on the ground but it is also a good climber and swimmer.  We have seen a southern black racer lying on the branches of shrubs near our back porch.

Southern black racers are a skittish snake often fleeing to hide when approached.  However, when this snake is cornered, it will strike to defend itself.  Since this snake is not poisonous, the resulting bite is not fatal but it will leave a bleeding wound from its sharp teeth.  If threatened or annoyed, this snake may vibrate its tail which can be mistaken as the tail maneuvering of a rattlesnake.  When they vibrate their tails in dry leaves, it can produce a buzzing sound.

The breeding period of the southern black racer is typically between March and June.  The female will lay approximately 6 to 20 eggs from May through August.  The newly hatched snakes will be approximately six to nine inches long. The southern black racer is one of the few snake species whose young do not resemble the parents.  The juvenile snake has a lighter colored body with darker reddish-brown blotches on their back and sides which fades into a solid-colored tail.  This makes it difficult to identify the young southern black racer. These young snakes have been confused with the pygmy rattlesnake due to the similar coloration.  Whenever the young southern black racer sheds its skin, it will become blacker until it turns totally black when it reaches about 2-1/2 feet long.

We have seen the southern black racer in many different areas of TGO from yards to preserve areas to the nature center and the golf cart nature trail.  These snakes are beneficial since they eat rodents and other pests.  If you encounter one of these snakes, please just give them a wide berth as they will most likely just try to get away and will not hurt you unless they are cornered.

The black racer in our backyard (photo below) is probably 4+ feet long.

 

TGO Nature Center, Nature, Snake, Black Racer, Ribbon Snake, Education Series

Photo Courtesy of Darlene Durham

 

TGO Nature Center, Nature, Snake, Black Racer, Ribbon Snake, Education Series

Photo Courtesy of Darlene Durham

 

To see many more photographs of the Southern Black Racer, click on Southern Black Racer Photo Album.

 

TGO Nature Center – “Living in Harmony with Nature

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