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Last updated on April 17, 2014 at 1:21 EDT

Eastern Racer, Coluber constrictor

The Eastern racer (Coluber constrictor) is a group of non venomous snakes, all members of the Colubridae family. For the most part, the species can be found in the United States (east of the Rocky Mountains), but may range up into Canada and south into Mexico, Guatemala and Belize. Eastern racers are compiled of eleven subspecies.

The Eastern racer’s coloration varies greatly from subspecies to subspecies. Typically their common name is derived from their appearance (i.e. black racers, brown racers, blue racers, or green racers), they may also be referred to as “runners” instead of “racers” in their common name. Most all of the subspecies are solid colored and their ventral (belly) sides are lighter – white, tan or yellowish.

As with coloration, lengths vary greatly. From 1.5 to 5 feet, the sizes within a subspecies are similar between males and females.

Eastern racers common name is descriptive of their highly active, speedy nature. A diurnal species, the snakes are most active during the day and sleep at night. Eastern racers commonly inhabit open, grassland habitats that are close to a water source. They have been known to dwell in brush, trash piles, swamps and roadsides.

Feeding consists of small mammals, frogs, lizards and smaller snakes. Commonly grounded creatures, an Eastern racer may climb trees for cover or more readily to feed on eggs and young birds. Their scientific name, constrictor, may be misleading because Eastern racers do not use a constriction method while hunting. Instead, its smaller prey is swallowed alive and subdued by coiling and pinning.

Image Caption: Eastern yellow-bellied racer. (Coluber constrictor flaviventris). Credit: David Sledge/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Eastern Racer Coluber constrictor