I found a couple examples of this serpent while visiting the “Show Me State” last month. Although it is capable of reaching 5 feet, the average adult tends to be about 3 feet in length.
The color of this smooth-scaled, slender snake is uniform but variable — from olive, tan, brown, or blue to gray or nearly black. The belly may be yellow, cream or light blue-gray.
Like other American Racers, juveniles are tan or gray and marked with gray or brown blotches and spots on the back, and smaller, alternating spots on the sides. As the young snakes grow, the markings fade and eventually disappear by the third year.
Active during daytime, these reptiles live in prairies, grasslands, pastures, brushy fields, open woods and along the edges of forests. In Spring and Fall, they are often seen on rocky, wooded, south-facing hillsides, which is where they overwinter (if they do not overwinter in a mammal burrow in an open habitat).
Eastern Yellow-Bellied Racers hunt frogs, lizards, snakes, small rodents, birds and insects. Despite the Latin name, Coluber constrictor, racers are not constrictors. They simply overpower their prey. They use their speed and agility to catch prey — as well as to escape their own predators.
It was an awesome experience to find an adult and juvenile version of this snake, which I had never encountered in the wild before, while on my trip.