Snake talk this week is about a common snake known to us in Maryland as the Northern black racer. Scientific name is Coluber constrictor. Please do not compare this snake to our native black rat snake. These are two separate species of snakes. Also known just as "Racer," The Northern black racer is a subspecies. Its a very large and slender snake that is fast moving.
Adults tend to be black. But also can be blue, brown or greenish above and white, yellow, or dark gray below. Young are typically gray and marked with dark spots on sides and dark gray, brown, or reddish-brown blotches mid-line of back. This gorgeous species mates April to late May in most areas. Females lay between 5 to 28 eggs which have a rough granular texture. Females will lay their eggs in tree stumps, sawdust piles, under rocks, and in small mammal tunnels.
Sometimes they may even lay eggs in a communal nest where other females have also laid their eggs, almost like a large nursery. Babies hatch between 6 to 9 weeks later. This species of snake is fully mature in 2 to 3 years. Their territory consists of abandoned fields, grasslands, brushy areas, open woodland, mountain meadows, rocky wooded hillsides, and grassy areas near streams.
Racers are often observed streaking across roads at a fast rate of speed. They are agile and excellent climbers, but spend most of their time on the ground. When hunting its prey, it holds its head high and moves very swiftly through cover. They eat large insects, frogs, lizards, snakes, small rodents and birds. Despite the scientific name, it is not a constrictor.
When the northern racer is annoyed, it may make a buzzing sound like a rattler by vibrating the tail tip in dead vegetation. If grabbed, it will bite repeatedly and thrash about violently.
Remember, snakes, like other wildlife, have suffered from habitat destruction as well as from pesticide poisoning and other pollutants introduced into their environments. Commercial collectors have taken their toll on reptiles and animals to satisfy a market of novelty collection.
Remember, these living creatures have a purpose on the planet just like all of us. Drinking that special potion with an animal part in the liquid, or having a rattlesnakes rattler on your keychain is not going to give you internal youth or heal an illness.
Get out, enjoy nature! But respect nature from a distance.
Tammy McCormack is a licensed professional snaketrapper. She writes a regular online column for fredericknewspost.com. You may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org