There is a tremendous variety of snake species to be found all around the world, and though most of them are harmless or at least non-venomous, some serpents do indeed have a deadly bite. Worse, some harmless snakes are lookalikes with their much deadlier cousins.
Learning to identify and tell one species of snake from another can help to prevent misidentification and danger. How about the black racer? Is it poisonous?
No, the black racer, also known as the southern black racer, is completely non-venomous, and mostly harmless to people.
These impressive snakes, though possessed of a slender build, are often impressively long and frighteningly fast.
This, and their similarity to other venomous snakes like the dreaded cottonmouth often leads to them being dispatched out of hand with no judge and no jury.
You don’t need to worry about them, however, as they are almost totally harmless. You can learn more about these snakes below.
Black Racer Appearance
The black racer is a striking snake, with a slender, athletic build and narrow head. The average specimen is around 3 ft in length, with record-breaking specimens topping out at 6 ft or longer.
As the name suggests, they are typically a solid black or mottled blue gray color all along their back, while the belly ranges from a similarly solid black or blue gray color to a creamy white.
The all over appearance of the scales is glossy or shiny. Be sure to look out for their chin and throat area, as this is invariably that creamy white color.
Is the Black Racer Poisonous?
No. The black racer is completely non-venomous, and though it is classified as a constrictor its usual method of dispatching prey is by smothering it or crushing it into the ground.
Range of the Black Racer
The black racer is found all throughout the southern United States, and particularly through the Deep South and Eastern seaboard.
They’re invariably found in abundance throughout pasture land, overgrown areas, near wetlands, streams and rivers and near the edges of forest, or inside sparsely grown forest habitat.
Also, keep in mind these snakes are prolific and very excellent climbers, and you’re just as likely to happen upon them hanging out in a tree, or taking to a tree in escape, as you are to find them on the ground.
Don’t be alarmed, but if you have never encountered one of these snakes it is only a matter of time; they are quite plentiful!
Will a Black Racer Bite You?
Yes, they will! The black racer, as the name suggests, depends upon speed to make its escape whenever it feels threatened, but anytime they are trapped, cornered or handled in any way they tend to thrash around madly, biting the whole time.
One interesting defensive strategy that is utilized is to imitate a rattlesnake by rapidly vibrating or buzzing the tip of their tail along the ground or in leaf litter to simulate that venomous snake’s cautionary alarm.
They also have another, far more disgusting defensive habit: they will poop out an awful smelling musky feces in an effort to get whatever is grabbing them to let go and run for it.
Take it from us, you do not want to try and handle one of these snakes!
Is their Bite Painful?
Yes. Even though the bite of the black racer is not venomous, it can still be quite painful and inflict injuries.
Like most non-venomous snakes, even though they lack the large and prominent fangs for the injecting of venom, they still have rows of tiny, razor sharp teeth which can easily tear you open.
Aside from the lacerations, it is highly likely that such a bite will get infected, further complicating the situation.
Unless you are a trained expert, you should never attempt to handle any wild snake, including a relatively harmless one like a black racer.
Is the Black Racer an Aggressive Snake?
No. Although they are persistent predators and generally successful, they are quite timid when it comes to contact with humans and larger animals.
As mentioned above, their basic response to any contact or potential conflict with humans is to run for it, something that they do quite well. The speed of the black racer is extremely impressive making it more than worthy of its name!
But, once again, if grabbed or cornered they will fight like the devil himself.
Can the Black Racer Hurt Domestic Animals?
Generally no. Larger mammals like dogs, cats, chickens, cows and so forth have nothing whatsoever to fear from the black racer.
However, they are voracious predators of any smaller creature that they can overpower, including mice, rats, various amphibians and other reptiles, and birds.
This means you’ll need to be very careful of keeping them away from your chicks and eggs, and any smaller animals you might be raising.
That being said, the speed of the black racer can easily startle animals like horses and cows, potentially causing a stampede or other dangerous condition.
Although they are rarely a direct threat to pets or livestock, their presence can be a nuisance, one that even suburban dwellers will need to be on the lookout for since these snakes are so common.
Notably, the black racer is itself prey for various birds of prey and other predatory animals. Larger dogs, coyotes, cats and potentially even roosters can easily kill a black racer and might eat it.
It is far from uncommon to see a black racer being devoured by a flock of chickens after being dispatched in such a fashion.
Should You Get Rid of Black Racers?
Generally no. Black racers do play an important part in local and regional ecosystems, so you shouldn’t kill them unnecessarily.
However, if one is hanging around your property causing problems for your chickens, scaring your horses or generally making a nuisance of itself you might consider killing it or, better yet, trapping it or calling animal control to relocate it if that is an option.
Another thing to consider is it black racers are constant predators of various other household and garden pests, meaning they can quickly depopulate an area of these critters if they are causing you trouble.
It could well be worth putting up with whatever problems the snake causes for a time so it can help you out in another way.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.