On my current visit to southern Illinois, I’ve encountered a snake that I more-often-than-not see when I visit the Land of Lincoln.
Adult Southern Black Racers are relatively large – to 5 feet – fairly slender, solid black snakes. They have smooth scales, large eyes, and often have some white under their chin.
Young racers do not resemble adults and are generally tan or grayish with a series of brown or reddish blotches running down the center of the back.
A large part of the reason for this widespread reptile’s success is it eats a wide variety of food items and are habitat generalists, occupying rocky ledges, pastures, overgrown fields, woodlands and the edges of wetlands.
Southern Black Racers are active during the daytime and are most often seen in warm weather. These snakes hunt by sight and actively forage during the day. They eat a wide range of prey including insects, lizards, snakes, birds, rodents and amphibians. These snakes are not constrictors and simply overpower their prey.
Racers are faster than most other snakes, very agile, and generally flee when approached, often climbing into small trees or shrubs.
These reptiles mate in the spring, and females lay up to 36 eggs in early summer. Their eggs hatch in late summer or early fall. Over time the blotched babies gradually turn solid in color.
It’s always cool to come across one of these sleek, speedy snakes when out hiking!