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Canadian Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Network - Réseau Canadien de 
Conservation des Amphibiens et des Reptiles

Coluber constrictor
Racer / Couleuvre Agile


Racer

Description
The Racer is highly variable in colour across North America, but individual subspecies are rather consistent in colour. There are two subspecies found in Canada. The Eastern Yellow-bellied Racer (C. c. faviventris)is pale blue, bluish green, gray or brown with a creamy or bright yellow belly. The Blue Racer (C. c. foxii)is pale blue or bluish green with a white or bluish belly. The Western Yellow-bellied Racer, which has recently been declared a separate species, (C. mormon) is green, yellowy brown or reddish brown with a yellow underside. The Racers can grow to almost 2 m in length.

Confusing Species
The Racer occurs in three widely dispersed provinces so it can be confused with different snakes in different areas. In BC the Rubber Boa can be greenish in colour, but its belly is not yellow and it is rubbery in appearance. In Saskatchewan the Smooth Greensnake is most similar to the Racer, but it is usually bright green. In Ontario, the Blue Racer cannot be easily confused with any other snake because of its bluish colour.

Distribution
The Racer is a wide-ranging southern snake whose distribution just gets into Canada in three areas. It is found in southern British Columbia, southern Saskatchewan and Pelee Island in Ontario. To the south it is found across most of the eastern US and parts of the west. The Racer also occurs farther south into Mexico and Gautemala.

Habitat
Typically a grassland species, the Racer is found in a variety of habitats from abandoned fields to open woodlands.

Reproduction
Breeding occurs in the spring. Females lay from 5-28 leathery eggs under rocks, in rotting logs or underground in animal burrows. Sometimes females will nest communally. The eggs hatch in late summer and the young are 20-30 cm in length. It takes 2-3 years for the snakes to mature.

Natural History
As its name suggests, the Racer is a very fast snake. It can move at almost 7 km/hr. The Racer eats insects, frogs, other snakes, small rodents and birds. Despite its scientific name, it is not a constrictor. If grabbed, the Racer will bite repeatedly. In some areas, Racers will hibernate in groups as large as 100, but in others they overwinter in smaller groups of 10-15. An individual can live for more than 20 years.

Conservation Concerns
All three of the Canadian subspecies have been listed by COSEWIC. The Western Yellow-bellied Racer of BC has been designated Special Concern because of its limited distribution and the threat posed from development and traffic mortality. The Eastern Yellow-bellied Racer of Saskatchewan has been designated Threatened because of its extremely restricted distribution in Canada and the threat from habitat loss and traffic mortality. The Blue Racer of Ontario has been designated Endangered. It has been extirpated from mainland Ontario and is now limited to Pelee Island. Development and traffic mortality are continuing threats to its survival.