How to Identify the Black Racer

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The black racer is one of the most commonly encountered snakes in the eastern United States but is also one of the most difficult snakes to identify. The reason for this is because of the overlapping regions of several other similar species, such as the hognose, coachwhip and king snake. These snakes all can be black in color, but there are some distinct differences to help you clearly identify the black racer. Knowledge of the species is key in identifying this beautiful snake.

  • Realize that the black racer is a relatively large snake, at around 60 inches in length. Though large, the black racer is likely to flee at the first sign of a human. If cornered, the black racer is an active and willing biter.

  • Observe the blinding speed and agility of the black racer. The black racer is one of the fastest snakes around and can climb virtually any surface. Racers are likely to go straight up a tree if threatened. The black racer also can strike with blinding speed.

  • Notice that the black racer is one of the few snakes that is uniformly black throughout it's body length. The black racer is shiny black on top and often a slightly lighter shade of black underneath. This is one way to differentiate between the black racer and other similar species, such as the king snake.

  • Observe that the black racer has a white marking underneath its chin. This distinctive feature can help you quickly and definitively identify the black racer. The white marking can be anything from stark white to cream in color.

  • Listen for the sharp hissing sounds that a black racer makes when you come into contact with it. The black racer can be quite loud with this hissing sound and it is very intimidating. While a bite from this snake is painful, it is not venomous. You should still seek medical attention if bitten, however, due to potential infection.

  • Know the habitat of the black racer. The black racer can be found virtually anywhere, so this is not a good indicator of the identity of the snake. The black racer prefers open fields and the edges of forests. They can, however, commonly be found in a suburban backyard.

Tips & Warnings

  • The black racer is not a venomous snake but still will bite fearlessly. Having a black racer around the yard is actually a good thing, as they eat tons of vermin.
  • Never attempt to pick up a black racer. Always let the black racer have an escape route.
  • Photo Credit Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 via Wikipedia Commons, Taken by Patrick Coin
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