black racer

Black racer

(Coluber constrictor)

NH Conservation Status: Species of Special Concern; Wildlife Action Plan Species in Greatest Need of Conservation (Click here to download the Reptiles and Amphibians section of the NH Wildlife Action Plan. Black racer is on page 3.)

State Rank Status: Threatened.

Distribution: Locally sparse through southeastern NH.

Description: A slender black snake measuring 36-60 inches. Black racers are glossy black on the top and bottom with a white throat and chin. Young racers are patterned with brown or reddish patches on a lighter base of gray.

Commonly Confused Species: Northern water snake; the timber rattlesnake has a blunt rattle and is thicker with keeled scales and a triangular head.

Habitat: Found in a variety of habitats including dry brushy pastures, powerline corridors, rocky ledges, and woodlands. Have large home ranges and require large patches of suitable habitat.

Life History: During summer lays 15-20 eggs underground in loose soil or under rotting wood or stumps. Hibernate in rock crevices or mammal burrows, sometimes communally.

Conservation Threats: Loss of habitat from rapidly developing southern New Hampshire, road mortality, non-compatible management of fields; death from humans in response to aggressive behavior.

Distribution map: Click here for a map showing the towns where this species is reported to occur in NH

black racer
black racer
Black Racers are large slim black snakes with smooth scales. (Photo by John Litvaitis)
Adult racers are solid black except for a white chin and throat. (Photo by Brendan Clifford)
black racer
black racer
Racers often lift their head above the ground (referred to as 'periscoping') to survey their surroundings. (Photo by Brendan Clifford)
Racers have large home ranges and are vulnerable on roadways, often pausing as cars approach.(Photo by John Litvaitis)
black racer
black racer
Notice the long tapered tail that comes to a point on this adult racer. (Photo by Brendan Clifford)
Racer neonates (newly hatched snakes) have a black and white pattern that remains visible for 1-2 years before fading to solid black.
black racer
black racer
Like many snakes, racers will often shake their tail when agitated – if done against dried leaves it can sound like a rattle, but only a rattlesnake has an actual rattle. (Photo by Brendan Clifford)


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