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Black Racer Snake

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Louisiana has abundant wildlife, including reptiles such as snakes and turtles. All are welcome in Yvonne's backyard wildlife habitat.

Welcome to Our Black Racer Page

Black Racer Face

Black Racer Face

Reptile: Blue Runner, Black Runner - Beneficial and Beautiful

Black Racers are very fast-moving, non-venomous, black snakes with a bluish cast to their scales. Other local common names for this handsome snake are Black Runner, Blue Racer, and Blue Runner.

Most Racers do not enjoy being handled. Black racers eat mostly mice and rats, so are extremely beneficial snakes to have around.

This page focuses on the Southern Black Racer and its sub-species which are found in Louisiana. The Southern Black Racer occurs in habitats all over Louisiana and throughout most of the Southeastern United States.

You'll find many photos and lots of information about these snakes in Louisiana. There is also a poll, so you can show how you feel about this beneficial and beautiful reptile. Most of the photographs were taken in our 9 acre backyard habitat.

Coluber constrictor

Louisiana Subspecies

There are five subspecies of Black Racers that occur in Louisiana. They are:

 ~ The Southern Black Racer, Coluber constrictor priapus which is characterized by a black dorsum and slate gray or black venter;

 ~ The Black-masked racer, Coluber constrictor latrunculus, characterized by a slate gray dorsum, a bluish gray venter and a broad black stripe behind the eye;

 ~ The Eastern yellow-bellied racer, Coluber constrictor flaviventris characterized by an olive green dorsum and a light yellow venter;

 ~ The Tan racer, Coluber constrictor etheridgei, characterized by a light tan dorsum with some light spotting and a grayish white venter; and

 ~ The Buttermilk racer, Coluber constrictor anthicus, characterized by a blue, blue-black or blue-green dorsum with a variable amount of light spotting and a grayish white venter.

Despite their Latin name, Racers are NOT constrictors. They hunt prey, with their head held high, when it is spotted, they race towards it, seize it and then swallow it alive. They may chew on larger prey until they stop struggling.

Racers lay clutches of 6 to 18 granular white eggs from June through September in such places as soft moist soil beside decaying logs, in decaying wood pulp or in depressions in clumps of grass. The hatchlings don't look like the adults and have light-colored bodies with dark blotches along the back and sides.

 

(reference: Dundee, Harold A. and Douglas A. Rossman, The Amphibians and Reptiles of Louisiana)

This very long one was found hunting for prey in late winter.

This very long one was found hunting for prey in late winter.

Racer Subspecies of Louisiana

A. Southern black racer, Coluber constrictor priapus

B. Black-masked Racer, Coluber constrictor latrunculus

C. Eastern yellow-bellied racer, Coluber constrictor flaviventris

D. Tan racer, Coluber constrictor etheridgei

E. Buttermilk racer, Coluber constrictor anthicus

F. Juvenile racer, Coluber constrictor

Louisiana Racer Subspecies

Louisiana Racer Subspecies

*photo reference: Dundee, Harold A. and Douglas A. Rossman, The Amphibians and Reptiles of Louisiana

Black Racer Poll

Early Spring Racer out and about on a cool morning.

Early Spring Racer out and about on a cool morning.

The photo was taken early in the spring, when the weather was still cool. This Black Racer was still a little sluggish and is trying to warm its body in the sun. In Louisiana they appear in late February or early March, depending on how hard the winter was.

Since black racers are normally so fast, early spring, when they are sluggish, is a good time to photograph them.


Notice the white area around the nose and mouth and how this hunting racer is holding its head up searching for a tasty morsel.

Notice the white area around the nose and mouth and how this hunting racer is holding its head up searching for a tasty morsel.

Black Racers hunt down their prey. They move quickly along the forest floor, with their head held high, always alert. When prey is detected, Racers quickly grab it and swallow it whole, sometimes while it is still alive.

The "constrictor" in their scientific name is a misnomer. I suppose, it was once thought that they squeezed their prey, but now scientists know that they don't. However, the name stuck.

 A quick glance of the blue flecks in the scales of this young snake helps you understand why some people call them blue racers.

A quick glance of the blue flecks in the scales of this young snake helps you understand why some people call them blue racers.

Notice the hint of blue where the sun is hitting the scales of this young Black Racer. This is why some people in Louisiana call them Blue Runners.

There is also a species of Racer which inhabits other parts of the United States which is called the Blue Racer. Common names can be deceiving, with different species being given the same common name or with the same species being called different common names in separate locations.

This photo of the weird looking kinked posture that they sometime assume was taken in our yard near the pond. All animals need a source of water to thrive.

This photo of the weird looking kinked posture that they sometime assume was taken in our yard near the pond. All animals need a source of water to thrive.

The odd looking "kinked" posture of this individual is often seen. Some believe that this is a defense mechanism. They look a lot like a fallen branch.

Another defensive reaction is that when threatened, if running away is not successful, they will hide in the brush and rattle their tails in dry leaves, sounding much like a rattlesnake.

Very young black racers are marked differently from the adult of the species. The young are speckled with black, white and tan spots. As they age, they darken into adult coloration.


This young racer was full of "spit and vinegar" as the old folks say.

This young racer was full of "spit and vinegar" as the old folks say.

Black Racers have a reputation for biting when they are caught. It seems that they develop this defense mechanism very early in life as you can see by the picture below. We happily released the little bugger after the brief photo op.


My husband had tiny "war wounds" from this encounter. I'm glad I was taking the pictures instead of holding the subject.

My husband had tiny "war wounds" from this encounter. I'm glad I was taking the pictures instead of holding the subject.

We often encounter these beautiful black snakes as we walk to the river through our woods. The only time we get a chance to photograph them is in early spring or fall when the weather is cool and they are sluggish. During warm weather they are gone in the blink of an eye.

This beauty was curled up enjoying the cool sunny day.

This beauty was curled up enjoying the cool sunny day.

Fall weather does not come to Louisiana until October. During September, when this photo was taken, Black Racers and other snakes are still active.

I came across this one coiled in the weeds in a sunny spot not too far from a hummingbird feeder which was being used by many migrating hummingbirds. Hummingbirds battle over feeders and sometimes knock each other to the ground, so I believe this Racer had positioned itself to take advantage of this.

After its photo op, I chased it away from the feeder. Hopefully it found a more substantial meal like a rat or a mouse.

Herping with Dylan Video

Snakes use sensors in their tongues to "feel" the warm bodies of their next meal. I took this picture of a Black Racer Sensing prey in the woods behind our house.

Snakes use sensors in their tongues to "feel" the warm bodies of their next meal. I took this picture of a Black Racer Sensing prey in the woods behind our house.

Reptiles are cold blooded creatures and must depend on the sun to warm their bodies when temperatures drop. I captured this photo of an individual sunning its self in a flower bed.

Reptiles are cold blooded creatures and must depend on the sun to warm their bodies when temperatures drop. I captured this photo of an individual sunning its self in a flower bed.

The Northern Black Racer, Coluber constrictor constrictor occurs in the uppermost parts of the southeastern U.S. The Southern Black Racer, Coluber constrictor priapus, inhabits most of Louisiana.


We often see these snakes in fall and late winter as they warm their bodies in the sun. When the weather turns cold they find a hole in a log or other shelter to survive.

We often see these snakes in fall and late winter as they warm their bodies in the sun. When the weather turns cold they find a hole in a log or other shelter to survive.

Black Racers have round eyes & are non-venomous.

A quick way to identify non-venomous snakes is by their round eyes and oblong-shaped head plus the absence of pits behind the eyes.

A quick way to identify non-venomous snakes is by their round eyes and oblong-shaped head plus the absence of pits behind the eyes.

© 2008 Yvonne L B

Race off a Comment!

1stStateJeep on August 30, 2019:

Just encountered a 4.5’ Black Racer here in Delaware. Its many defense mechanisms fooled me into thinking it may be venomous and had to dispose of it to protect my family and family pets. Now that I’ve learned a lot from your lens, the next encounters will be to trap and release them into the local wetlands.

jeannette-r-thompson on May 27, 2014:

I've seen one of these three times in my yard here in Southwest Louisiana. Two times through the window and another time as I rounded the corner of the house. It was coming toward me and I think I frightened that snake more than it frightened me...lol So, I don't believe that they actually chase people. :)

suepogson on February 04, 2013:

I like snakes. I also have a healthy respect for them and don't go near snakes I don't recognise. I wouldn't have known these fellas so thanks for introducing them to me.

potovanja on July 31, 2012:

Great lens. Worth my LIKES:). Thank you to stop by to see my lens...

SpenceG on July 18, 2012:

Cool snakes. Reading your lens is like watching Animal Planet.

Yvonne L B (author) from Covington, LA on July 08, 2012:

@anonymous: Are you familiar with Ring-necked snakes. Even as adults they are tiny. They are slate gray on top with a yellow-orange ring on their neck. Their bellies are orange or yellow, too, but you usually don't see the belly. They often go into houses. Here's a page I wrote about them: https://hubpages.com/animals/ring-neck-snake-louis

We don't know how old the baby black racer was in the picture above (with my husband's hand). It was not newly hatched though. Baby black racers have lots of speckles and don't start turning a solid color until they are several months old.

anonymous on July 08, 2012:

how small are the babies when they are newborn? I found something in my house and am not sure if it's a worm or baby snake. It moved like a racer, very fast when I tried to catch it.

anonymous on June 15, 2012:

Just watched a black racer zip into my garage and snatch up a mole skink. It was pretty cool.

antoniow on June 09, 2012:

Interesting lens, great job!

Yvonne L B (author) from Covington, LA on May 29, 2012:

@glutenallergy: Thank you for the wonderful anecdote. I so appreciate that you identified the babies as non-venomous black racers before acting. Too many people would have killed first and asked questions later and those people would have destroyed a very effective member of nature's rodent and vermin control squad. We need more people like you in the world.

glutenallergy on May 29, 2012:

We live in Florida and see lots of black racers. My first experience with one gave me quite a scare. I was removing old mulch and had grabbed a handful. When I removed my hand from the dirt, several baby snakes wriggled out where my hand had just been. I jumped back (and screamed), and looked at the babies.

They were sort of blue, black, and brown, and had a unique pattern I'd never seen before. Not knowing what they were, I ran into the house to research them, and discovered they were baby black racers.

As you show in your pictures, they look nothing like the adults. I was just relieved that they weren't poisonous!

Julia Morais on May 20, 2012:

I love snakes. The amount of work you've put on your lens is astounding.

CASHGURU on May 18, 2012:

Excellent lens. i love all reptiles they are fascinating.

jayceehaynes on May 18, 2012:

nice lens:)

wcjohnston on May 18, 2012:

Great lens, love it

DSteelman on May 18, 2012:

wow.. what a great lens.. I love snakes and this was a great, informational read this morning.

happynutritionist on May 17, 2012:

I don't think we have them in the northeast, we do have garter snakes, ring necks, and I was fortunate enough to see a beautiful green snake...it was crossing our street so not hidden in the surrounding vegetation...then there are the FAT lazy ones that like to "hang out" sometimes on the rocks in certain areas of our lake. I am not afraid of snakes unless they appear suddenly, or almost step on one, have held them, had garters as pets, their skin/scales actually feels so smooth.

LisaWhite on May 17, 2012:

nice lens.

anonymous on May 17, 2012:

what a cool snake :)

And great lens

winter aconite on May 17, 2012:

I love snakes....lovely lens!

joannalynn lm on May 16, 2012:

I see Black Racers in my yard (in North Idaho) when I mow, and some years there are so many they have the misfortune of getting caught in the mower blade :(. Would you be surprised to find a Black Racer ended up in our pond and ate one of the juvenile fish? I was not very happy with said snake. I am a botanist and we "botanize"...I think "herping" is great! A very informative lens.

jammarti on May 16, 2012:

Good information! Now I know another type of snake.

AgingIntoDisabi on May 16, 2012:

Never heard of this snake so thanks for introducing me to it!

AgingIntoDisabi on May 16, 2012:

Never heard of this snake so thanks for introducing me to it!

Country Sunshine from Texas on May 16, 2012:

Had a green racer in my backyard last week. First one I've seen in a number of years. I love snakes, and this article is great!

kendrafowler on May 16, 2012:

Fantastic! Loved the pic of the lil one trying to bite ! Snakes always fascinated me and this was very interesting!

intermarks on May 16, 2012:

Very interesting topic, it reminded me that when I was a teenager, my friends and I were catching snakes everywhere, it was really exciting and fun, especially when we discover some a snake whenever we turn over a stone.

pheonix76 from WNY on May 15, 2012:

Very interesting -- I really enjoy learning about snakes! :)

MartieG aka 'survivoryea' from Jersey Shore on May 15, 2012:

Such an interesting lens - pictures are amazing ~blessed~

Stephanie Tietjen from Albuquerque, New Mexico on May 15, 2012:

I like the sunning snake photo. These are a cool species. Enjoyed learning about them.

katiecolette on May 15, 2012:

We had quite an experience with 3 huge snakes in the backyard of my mother-in-law's house this past weekend - even though I knew the snakes weren't poisonous, I was very uncomfortable being close to them. I am not a big fan of snakes, but the little black racer snakes in your pictures look kind of cute :)

cleanyoucar on May 15, 2012:

Great information here! Well deserved of the purple star

thememorybooksh1 on May 15, 2012:

Fantastic lens thanks for sharing :)

vBizeso on May 15, 2012:

Nice Lens

SquidooMBA on May 14, 2012:

Nice lens. Even the security word said "faster".

trendydad on May 13, 2012:

great job on the purple lens

anonymous on May 13, 2012:

Wonderful lens, just wow.. No wonder this one won a purple lens..

AlleyCatLane on May 13, 2012:

I think this the fella that's been showing up on my patio lately. He was moving across the brick ledge on my wall ths other day with his head and body standing up about 8 inches. Thanks for the information. Very good lens.

GregCunningham on May 13, 2012:

Thanks for the informaiton.

IMKZRNU2 from Pacific Northwest on May 13, 2012:

Very nice lens! All the information you need at your fingertips.

ismeedee on May 13, 2012:

Nice lens! I love snakes; they're beautiful. Except in water- they creep me out in the water!

anonymous on May 13, 2012:

Blessed!

Kay on May 13, 2012:

My son's dog brought me one of these last week! So sweet LOL. He'd lost part of his tail in the battle with the dog and my husband put him back over in the pond.

julieannbrady on May 10, 2012:

The Black Racer is the one snake that I've personally seen the most in my yards here in Florida. One of the last ones to visit me I found by accident ... as I rummaged in some leaves at the side of my house, he appeared! Yikes ... I followed him as he quickly went down the side of my house to the back ... and up into my patio door. His tongue could be seen at the bottom edge. Thank goodness there was a lip on the door and he didn't come in.

jed78 on April 14, 2012:

Nice, we mostly have rat snakes and water snakes around here.

misslavenderrose on April 01, 2012:

I want some to kill the rodents in my flower garden. How can I get/buy them?

MindPowerProofs1 on March 28, 2012:

I don't like snakes, sorry.

WilliamPower on March 10, 2012:

Excellent lens on snakes.

jadehorseshoe on December 23, 2011:

ANOTHER Nifty Lens!

TopToysForKids on December 14, 2011:

I love the yellow one....it looks all chill....=) I'll have to come by again when I have some more time...

RinchenChodron on September 19, 2011:

Wow - interesting - nice job - very educational - great photos!

Ben Reed from Redcar on September 12, 2011:

Amazing snake - amazing lense - will be sure to visit again.

LouiseKirkpatrick from Lincolnshire, United Kingdom on August 14, 2011:

You've got some amazing photos here - I'm from the UK so I've never seen a Black Racer! I think snakes are interesting and beautiful creatures but we have very few indigenous snakes here so the only ones I ever get to see are in pet shops or zoos :( A really interesting and informative lens - blessed by this Squid Angel as part of the "Back To School Bus Trip"!

Francis Luxford from United Kingdom on July 15, 2011:

I love snakes. Great lens!

BlueDunDan on July 13, 2011:

We have many Black Racers up here. I have found that Black Racers have a chip on their shoulder. They are angry herps!

pimbels lm on June 18, 2011:

I did 100%> Find this lens very interesting, thank you.

Yvonne L B (author) from Covington, LA on May 26, 2011:

@ChrisDay LM: Sorry about that. I think you may have taken the quiz before I had double checked to make sure that I clicked the correct answers. There were 2 that I forgotten to change from A to B. It was late and I was sleepy. ;)

We'll count you as having 100% in the grade book.

Linda Hahn from California on May 25, 2011:

Liked this lens, snakes are very interesting.

anonymous on May 25, 2011:

I just know that I'm going to be dreaming of snakes tonight! 80%!

ChrisDay LM on May 25, 2011:

Thanks for the fascinating lens. I have never seen one of these (UK). BTW, I don't know whether there's a bug but the quiz logged me as giving 2 wrong answers, whereas I had clicked the correct answers.

Yvonne L B (author) from Covington, LA on May 22, 2011:

@anonymous: Sorry to be so long in responding. Without more information I can't tell you whether the snake may be venomous or not. I would suggest calling a local herpetologist or someone who handles and/or sells snakes for help.

anonymous on April 14, 2011:

@OldGrampa: how do u catch a snake?

anonymous on April 14, 2011:

I have a darkblue snake in my wall that has a yellowish strip. How do i get him out?

Philippians468 on March 30, 2011:

that racer looks like he can bite me so fast i wouldn't know what happened!

Francis Luxford from United Kingdom on March 25, 2011:

I love snakes, very cool! Thanks for sharing.

photofk3 on January 19, 2011:

I like snakes. Thank you for this lens.

anonymous on November 09, 2010:

thank you i have handled these snakes b4 but only my brother has gotten bit. this is also grate b/c im doing a report on reptiles.

Virginia Allain from Central Florida on September 20, 2010:

The first time we saw one of these, we checked the internet to identify it. You page would have been a big help. Great photos.

Mary Beth Granger from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA on September 20, 2010:

Very interesting article. Love all your photos. Blessed.

Yvonne L B (author) from Covington, LA on June 21, 2010:

@naturegirl7s: P.S. In Snakes of the Southeast by Gibbons and Dorcus it says that the Northern Black Racer (Coluber constrictor constrictor) occurs in the upper eastern part of southeastern U.S. You can find this well researched and well written book at most libraries and bookstores.

Yvonne L B (author) from Covington, LA on June 21, 2010:

@anonymous: Snake Charmer,

Thanks for your comment about some of the Coluber species which inhabit other parts of the U.S. This article focuses on the Coluber constrictor sub species that inhabit Louisiana. They are called by many common names besides black racer or runner and blue racer or runner. I failed to include the Latin or scientific name for the various subspecies that I listed (with a brief description including color), but that will be rectified shortly. However, you can find much of the same information of the Louisiana sub-species, with pictures and scientific names later in the article.

This article is ongoing and we are constantly updating it and making improvements as we encounter these wonderful creatures.

anonymous on June 21, 2010:

This article is very misleading as far as the Racer (Coluber constrictor)

sometimes being called blue.. There are Blue Racers (Coluber constrictor foxi) so not mentioning this will lead to people believing all blue colored Racers are black Racers. In addition there is no species called a Northern Black Racer nor a Black Racer, there are Racers (Coluber constrictor) which are black, blue, brown, or greenish and there are Southern Black Racers (Coluber constrictor priapus) which are black and Eastern Yellow-bellied Racer (Coluber constrictor flaviventris) which are pale blue, bluish-green, olive-green, gray, or brown!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Although this site looks very professionally done it is severely lacking in actual facts.

anonymous on June 15, 2010:

Yo ur cool

bigbike4 on May 23, 2010:

Here in Tennessee it is Illegal to kill any snake unless you are physically threatened. Snakes are such a vital part of the eco system and the state protects them. Hell they even drop rattlesnakes from helicopters over the mountain areas to keep mice, rat and small mammal populations in check.

as I write this it is MAY and about the only time of the year for me to see snakes, most of the time they are out doing snake things in fields and on the mountains. And I am content to leave them do their snake thing right where they are. It is only when they come close to my house or my car that I feel threatened. Seems like we do have a few venoumous snakes down here-rattlers, copperheads and such. Thankfully most snakes will flee when they see a human. Cept for that one the other day that was crawling in my porch beams! I did not want to get home at 3am to find it inside my house or in my bed.

lasertek lm on May 13, 2010:

I'm one of those people who are not able to distinguish one snake from the other. It seems to me that all snakes are venomous and will kill a victim in an instant. It is good to be informed though. Thanks for sharing what you know. 5*

Yvonne L B (author) from Covington, LA on April 11, 2010:

@Airinka: Thanks for the comment... sorry you feel that way about snakes. To us, they are another of this planet's interesting and beneficial creatures, that are an important link in the food chain and the cycle of life.

Airinka on April 11, 2010:

Nasty snakes...

oztoo lm on March 25, 2010:

I really don't like snakes and yet at the same time they are fascinating. I'm glad the racers are not venemous. Great and informative lens.

Andy-Po on January 31, 2010:

Excellent lens (I have digged and delicioused and favourited this). Beautiful snakes. We have very few snakes in England (just three different species) but it's always great to catch a glimpse of one. Thanks very much for featuring my lenses in your excellent Nature at its best blog too

Yvonne L B (author) from Covington, LA on November 15, 2009:

We are so blessed to have a good population of beautiful black racers on our 9 acre backyard wildlife habitat.

beachbum_gabby on August 19, 2009:

awesome lens but still afraid to all kinds of snakes ^__^

anonymous on June 05, 2009:

Excellent Lens. 5*

If you get a chance check out my Instant Stress Management lens.

KimGiancaterino on April 29, 2009:

Blessed by a Squid Angel.

Sarunas on April 27, 2009:

Awesome lens.

I gave you 5 stars.

Keep it up. :)

Paula Atwell from Cleveland, OH on April 16, 2009:

This is an excellent lens. Blessings.

Janusz LM on April 13, 2009:

Blessed by a Squid Angel :)

Kiwisoutback from Massachusetts on April 08, 2009:

We have something like these in Massachusetts. I used to call them belt snakes when I was little because I thought I dropped my belt from the clothesline and it turned out to be a striped snake! Same colors as my belt and everything. Great work here, Squid Angel blessed!

anonymous on March 13, 2009:

Great lens, living in south Florida, I see black racers in my yard on a regular basis. I've taken photos of them, they are beautiful!

Debra

(favorite and 5*)

religions7 on March 05, 2009:

Wow. Great lens.

anonymous on November 02, 2008:

I am OK with snakes as long as they are not venomous. We don't see snakes very often in the UK and only have one poisonous one, but providing you get medical treatment relatively quickly, you should be fine.

ElizabethJeanAl on October 25, 2008:

I knnow we have these in SC but I've never seen one.

Great lens.

Lizzy

coopd on October 24, 2008:

Another great lens! Thank you for joining my Nature Lovers group :)

ElizabethJeanAl on October 24, 2008:

Welcome to the Totally Awesome Lenses Group.

Lizzy

KimGiancaterino on October 13, 2008:

Oooh, I could use one of these in my laundry room. A mouse with an appetite for plastic hoses has caused over $500 damage to my new washing machine! Wonderful lens, as usual.

OldGrampa on October 12, 2008:

I have always loved all animals including snakes. I try never to kill one, but I have caught copperheads and taken them elsewhere (like back into the woods where they belong)