Black Racer
Coluber constrictor

Photo by JD Willson


Description: Racers are large, relatively slender snakes known for their speed. They have rather large eyes, smooth scales, and in North Carolina are solid black as adults, although some have a whitish chin. As juveniles, racers are gray or brown with dark reddish-brown spots running along their backs.

Feeding/Diet: Racers do not constrict, but chase their prey down and swallow it alive. They eat a variety of animals, including small rodents, lizards, frogs, insects, and other snakes.

Activity/Behavior: They are active only during the daytime and have very good vision. When out and about, they are very alert and often hunt with their heads raised above the ground.

Habitat/Range: Black racers live in a variety of habitats, but are often found in somewhat open areas where they can bask in the sun.

Reproduction: During June or July, the black racer lays 4–31 eggs, which like its relative, the coachwhip, has small bumps like grains of salt all over its surface.

Miscellaneous: Although they are often confused with the black rat snake, the black racer can be easily distinguished by their smooth scales. Although racers will often aggressively defend themselves and will usually bite repeatedly if picked up, they do not chase people as is often claimed. When pursued, they often climb into bushes or trees to escape their would-be captor. Though they are fast for a snake, a person can easily outrun one on open ground.

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The shaded region represents the range of the black racer in North Carolina.

A juvenile black racer.
Photo by JD Willson

Photo by JD Willson

Some adults may have a whitish chin.
Photo by RW Van Devender

Photo by Eric Stine Another juvenile black racer.
Photo by JD Willson

This website created by: J. Willson, Y. Kornilev, W. Anderson, G. Connette and E. Eskew.
For comments or questions contact M. Dorcas:
M. Dorcas homepage:
Davidson College, Davidson, North Carolina 28035-1719.

Text and maps from: Dorcas, M. E. 2004. A Guide to the Snakes of North Carolina. Davidson College - Herpetology Laboratory, Davidson, NC. – Copyright by Michael E. Dorcas.

Partial Funding for this website provided by a Associate Colleges of the South, National Science Foundation, and Duke Energy.