Southern Black Racer (Coluber constrictor priapus) - Wiki
Coluber constrictor priapus
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[Photo] Black Racer on Merritt Island, Florida November 18, 2005. Photo by http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Fl295
The Southern Black Racer (Coluber constrictor priapus) is one of the more common subspecies of non-venomous snakes in the southeastern United States. These snakes are quite active during the day which increases the chance of sightings. They will eat almost any animal they can overpower, including, rodents, frogs, toads, and lizards. They have been known to charge at people in an attempt to frighten them and will usually retreat if challenged. Members of this species generally do not tolerate handling, even after months in captivity, and will typically strike and flail wildly every time they are handled. These snakes are usually thin with a jet black dorsal side with a grey belly and white chin. They are quite fast, giving rise to the name "racer".
Habitat And Habits
The Southern Black Racer is an excellent swimmer and climber, and is aptly named because it has incredible speed and is very difficult to capture. When cornered it will fight???its tiny sharp teeth can deliver a painful but non-venomous bite. Escape is its best defense. Like many other species, the Black Racer will vibrate its tail in dry leaves and grass and the resulting sound is reminiscent of the noise made by a Rattlesnake. The snake favors wooded areas, brush and thickets although it is also commonly seen in suburban yards. While hunting it can travel at good speed even with its head elevated well off the ground.
The Florida Black Racer is a predator that relies on lizards, insects, moles, birds, eggs, small snakes, rodents and frogs. Despite being classified as a constrictor (Scientific Name: Coluber Constrictor), the Racer is more likely to suffocate or crush its victim into the ground rather than coiling around it in typical constrictor fashion.
Man remains the biggest enemy of Black Racers. Many are killed on highways and others are intentionally killed out of fear. The white chin causes many people to kill this snake, believing that it is a Cottonmouth???a venomous Florida snake more commonly called a Water Moccasin. The venomous snake has a white lining inside of its mouth. Racers are non-venomous and do not breed with Cottonmouths. Natural enemies include such birds of prey as hawks including the Red-shouldered Hawk and Broad-winged Hawk. These perching and soaring birds have keen eyesight and drop down from above to capture Black Racers and other snakes thus making their speed and ground awareness ineffectual.
It is believed snakes are color blind. Adult Racers are solid black but juveniles are a blotched gray and reddish brown. Most racers are between 24" and 55" in length and rarely exceed 70 inches. Breeding and egg laying occurs between March and August. Up to 20 eggs are laid but like most reptiles, no interest is taken in hatching or rearing young. Newly hatched Racers are about 6" in length and rely on their juvenile camouflage for survival. Like other snakes, the Racer will shed its skin several times a year.
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