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Living Sanibel: Southern Black Racer

By Staff | Dec 21, 2012

The most commonly seen snake in this region, the southern black racer is also one of the most common in Florida. One reason for the frequent sightings is that the black racer is a diurnal hunter, so it is out at the same time when most people are working in their yards, biking, or doing other activities that might bring them into contact with this snake. The black racer has one of the most extensive ranges of any North American snake, extending to the Canadian border, west to Washington, and east to Maine.

The black racer is nonvenomous but will inflict a nasty bite if grabbed. It will rattle its tail in the grass or dry leaves when cornered or threatened, imitating the eastern diamondback rattlesnake. It cannot be domesticated and should not be kept as a pet. It will continue to bite its captors throughout its life span and repeatedly bash its head against a glass enclosure until it seriously injures itself.

Despite its scientific middle name (constrictor), the black racer is not a true constrictor. It tends to chase down, bite, then suffocate or crush its victims on the ground rather than coiling around them in true constrictor fashion. Its diet includes brown and green anoles, insects, moles, birds, frogs, eggs, smaller snakes, and rodents. It is preyed on by red-shouldered hawks, owls, and larger snakes.

The black racer is extremely quick and agile, making it difficult to catch. When spotted crossing a trail or road, it vanishes into the understory with amazing swiftness.

This is an excerpt from Living Sanibel-A Nature Guide to Sanibel & Captiva Islands by Charles Sobczak. The book is available at all the Island bookstores, Baileys, Jerry’s and your favorite online sites.