Squamata

Field Guide to Maryland's Snakes (Order Squamata)


Family Colubridae

Northern Black Racer

Common Name:

Northern Black Racer


Scientific Name:

Coluber constrictor constrictor

Photo of Adult Northern Black Racer courtesy of John White
Photo of Adult Northern Black Racer courtesy of John White


Size:
36 - 60 inches. Record - 73 inches.

Appearance:
  • A smooth and shiny black back and bluish-black to dark gray belly with some white on the throat and chin.
  • The young are strongly patterned, like water snakes and rat snakes, but have a set of blotches along the centerline and proportionally larger eyes, an adaptation for open field hunting.
  • Their bellies are cream colored.
  • Scales are not keeled.

Habitats:

Dry open grassy areas or open forest adjacent to grassy areas. They can also be found in urban, suburban and agricultural areas, and on barrier islands.


How to Find:

Walk along field-forest edges, particularly in Spring and Summer. These are the fastest snakes we have (thus the “racer”) and can flee readily, but will also stand their ground and strike repeatedly. Bite and release musk when handled, squirming to get away. Non-venomous, but the bite can be painful.

Photo of Habitat for Northern Black Racer - courtesy of Rebecca Chalmers
Photo of Habitat for Northern Black Racer
courtesy of Rebecca Chalmers


Distribution in Maryland:

Statewide.​

Northern Black Racer - Distribution in Maryland