Southern black racer
|Southern black racer|
|Subspecies:||C. c. priapus|
|Coluber constrictor priapus
Dunn & Wood, 1939
The southern black racer (Coluber constrictor priapus) is one of the more common subspecies of nonvenomous Coluber constrictor snakes in the Southeastern United States. The name priapus refers to the proximal spines of the hemipenes being much enlarged into basal hooks, which is characteristic of this subspecies. 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, but will usually retreat if challenged. They are not venomous. 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, often defecating a foul smelling musk, a common defense against predators in snakes. 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".
The southern black racer is a predator that relies on lizards, insects, moles, birds, eggs, small snakes, rodents, and frogs. Despite its specific name 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 snake more commonly called a water moccasin. The venomous snake has a white lining inside of its mouth. Racers are nonvenomous 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.
- Schmidt,K.P. and D.D. Davis. 1941. Field Book of Snakes of the United States and Canada. G.P. Putnam's Sons. New York. 365 pp. (Coluber constrictor priapus, p. 125.)
- Palmer, E. Laurence, ed. (1974). Fieldbook of Natural History (2 ed.). McGraw Hill. ISBN 0-07-048425-2.
- John Farrand; John Bull; Roger Tory Peterson, eds. (December 1979). National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. Alfred A Knopf. ISBN 0-394-50824-6.