The North American Racer is a long slender snake that has a black body with a satin sheen and smooth scales. The underside is a solid white or gray. Sometimes they show an iridescent blue on either side of the belly. They have a tan nose, white under their chin, and a strong eyebrow ridge. As adults they are 4-6 feet long (the longest documented in Vermont is 70 inches). The racer is very fast and quite nervous. It usually bites if captured.
When they are young, racers look similar to Eastern Milksnakes, but they do not have the white “Y” on the back of the head that the milksnakes have. The Eastern Ratsnake has a patterned, not solid, underside.
Get more detailed identification and life history information by downloading the chart here.
You can learn more about this species and see some video footage by checking out this short clip or this longer feature video from our Rattlers, Peepers & Snappers DVD.
They inhabit open pastures, power lines, and meadows, near rocky ridges.
This species has a state natural heritage rank of S1 (rare). The North American Racer is threatened in Vermont and has been designated a Species of Greatest Conservation Need (high priority) in Vermont’s Wildlife Action Plan. Please report all sightings of this species in Vermont. Take photos if possible. Even historic sighting information is useful.
The North American Racer has been known by the common name “Eastern Racer”.
- Coluber constrictor at the Animal Diversity website
- Coluber constrictor in the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Action Plan: Amphibian & Reptiles (9/25/2015 draft)
- Coluber constrictor at the Snakes of Massachusetts website
Species summary written by Ariel K. McK. Burgess.