NORTH AMERICAN RACER
Coluber constrictor
Linnaeus 1758


kō-lū-bĕr — kŏn-strĭk-tŏr




An adult North American Racer from Chautauqua County, Kansas. Image © Dan Fogell.
An adult North American Racer from Riley County. © Maci Loughrea
An juvenile North American Racer from Logan County. © Travis W. Taggart.
An adult North American Racer from Johnson County. © Nick Edge.
A juvenile from Russell County. Image © Jim Scharosch.
An adult from Ellsworth County. Image © Suzanne L. Collins, CNAH.
An adult North American Racer from Johnson County.  © Nick Edge

Description:
Harmless. Smooth scales; uniform cream or yellow belly with no pattern. The upper body of adults uniform blue-gray, greenish blue or brown. Young have a pattern of large, light-edged blotches on back alternating with smaller spots on sides; pattern distinct on the front half of body, but fades toward the rear. Young also have scattered dark/reddish speckles on the belly. As they grow older, young lose all patterns and attain the uniform appearance of adults.
The Racer has smooth scales. Adults have a uniform blue-gray, greenish blue, or rarely brown body and a uniform yellow to cream-colored belly with no pattern. Young individuals, have a series of large light-edged blotches down their backs alternating with smaller spots on their sides and scattered dark speckles on the belly. As Racers grow older their pattern is lost as they acquire the uniform appearance of adults. Adult males have slightly longer tails than females, but females grow slightly larger than males.
Snake eggs can be especially difficult to distinguish from one species to another, however, the North American Racer is the only species in Kansas that has roughly textured eggs. The eggs are white to cream and typically do not adhere to one another. They are approximately an inch long and one-half inch in diameter and their surface is diffusely covered by many small firm bumps.
Adults normally 580-1,270 mm (23-50 inches) in TL; largest specimen from Kansas: female (KU 192239) from Jefferson County with TL of 1,413 mm (55½ inches) collected by Rick Strawn on 31 May 1982; maximum length throughout range: 75 inches (Boundy, 1995); maximum weight for Kansas specimen: 538 grams (1 pound, 3 ounces).


Distribution:
A true generalist, this species is found statewide. The Racer is a snake of open grassland, pasture, and prairie areas during the summer and generally is found on rocky wooded hillsides only in spring and fall. This snake is active normally from April to mid-November, at air temperature ranging from 60 to 90 F, but Clarke (1958) found it active as early as 23 March in Osage County. Platt (1985) found this reptile common in the sand prairie habitat of western Harvey County.

Locality Dot Map:
The brown shaded areas () show the boundaries of properties in public or institutional ownership that contain ecological resources that merit some level of protection (KBS file).
(, Museum Voucher) (, Observation) (, Literature Record). Export Google Earth (.kml)
Open icons indicate questionable records; Click on a marker to view details.
  • Occurrence Summary:  
  • 1,431 Total Records 
  • 1,139 Museum Vouchers 
  • 292 Other Observations 
County Breakdown: County Name (# occurrences): Some occurrences indicated below may be too imprecise to map.
Allen (12); Anderson (23); Atchison (10); Barber (26); Barton (6); Bourbon (35); Brown (2); Butler (8); Chase (23); Chautauqua (7); Cherokee (29); Cheyenne (11); Clark (10); Clay (2); Cloud (4); Coffey (5); Comanche (11); Cowley (66); Crawford (16); Decatur (8); Dickinson (5); Doniphan (11); Douglas (102); Edwards (3); Elk (13); Ellis (128); Ellsworth (14); Finney (17); Ford (2); Franklin (16); Geary (8); Gove (23); Graham (9); Grant (5); Gray (4); Greeley (1); Greenwood (30); Hamilton (11); Harper (21); Harvey (9); Haskell (3); Hodgeman (10); Jackson (4); Jefferson (22); Jewell (6); Johnson (16); Kearney (5); Kingman (3); Kiowa (13); Labette (4); Lane (4); Leavenworth (14); Lincoln (6); Linn (23); Logan (12); Lyon (37); Marion (3); Marshall (20); McPherson (2); Meade (21); Miami (33); Mitchell (2); Montgomery (5); Morris (2); Morton (8); Nemaha (1); Neosho (8); Ness (10); Norton (3); Osage (5); Osborne (7); Ottawa (2); Pawnee (4); Phillips (10); Pottawatomie (28); Pratt (4); Rawlins (9); Reno (3); Republic (7); Rice (6); Riley (60); Rooks (18); Rush (5); Russell (51); Saline (13); Scott (6); Sedgwick (2); Seward (14); Shawnee (3); Sheridan (1); Sherman (2); Smith (1); Stafford (13); Stanton (5); Stevens (1); Sumner (4); Thomas (3); Trego (23); Unknown (19); Wabaunsee (15); Wallace (11); Washington (7); Wichita (4); Wilson (5); Woodson (3); Wyandotte (9);

Natural History:
On warm days, the North American Racer is often seen gliding over the ground in search of food; average home range of 25 acres but not territorial. Pursues and eats insects, frogs, lizards, other snakes (including venomous species), birds, bird eggs and small mammals. Despite its scientific name, it is not a constrictor. 
Gloyd (1925) removed a Spotted Ground Squirrel (Xerospermophilus spilosoma) and a 19 inch North American Racer (Coluber constrictor) from the stomach of a Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) in Kansas in 1921.
Burt (1935) reported that Cornelius Rogers placed a small Prairie Kingsnake (Lampropeltis calligaster} in a cage with an adult North American Racer on 31 August 1934 and the Coluber immediately attacked the smaller snake, swallowing it, tail first.
Breeding in this species occurs in May. During courtship the male positions himself alongside the female and ripples his body spasmodically as he positions his cloaca beneath her tail. Copulation then occurs and lasts several minutes. While copulating, the female may move forward slowly, dragging the attached male with her. 
Five to 31 rough-shelled eggs per clutch, with an average of eleven or twelve (Fitch, 1985), are laid in June or July, usually in tunnels or burrows of small mammals, such as moles and often under rocks or slabs of concrete. Incubation takes 2–3 months. More than one female may use the same nest site at the same time. Guillette and Sullivan (1983) reported a case of successful incubation of eggs removed from a pregnant road-killed Racer in Harvey County.
Cope (1900) reports an account, given by Dr. Henry Brons, of the courtship of this species on the Kansas plains: The manner of union of the sexes at this season ie rather instructive. The female among the racers (Bascanium) is larger and darker than the males, and not so graceful in form or movements. She, at times, seems to toy with the male, indisposed to yield to his importunities, though pressed with ardor. To avoid his suit, at times, she will dart through grass, among stones, or enter a crevice. Should he be able to reacher his mate while within a hole, he is not slow in bringing her to the surface, again to be repulsed. Upon an unbroken ground the sexual communion is less prolonged. Here she is unable to free herself from his quick and effectively directed moves. In case she attempts to quit him, a coil is thrown about her body, and his head laid flat upon her neck and replaced as promptly as dislodged, evidently in the endeavor to propitiate her.
Rundquist (1998) reported on a letter from Claude Hibbard to Edward H. Taylor that recounted the discovery of a North American Racer active on 31 December 1950 at 70 deg F.


Occurrence Activity:
Remarks:
First reported in Kansas by Hallowell (1856). The earliest existing specimen is from 1871 (MCZ 2456).
Burt (1935) reported on a female North American Racer that was found dead in the road with eggs exposed from the body cavity in Pawnee County, Kansas, on 26 May 1934. Burt (op. cit.) also reported finding young individuals with the initial color pattern in a snake den in Cowley County, Kansas, on 29 March 1934, in association with Pantherophis emoryi and Diadophis punctatus. Adults were associated with large Pitouphis catenifer in another den on a prairie hillside.

Bibliography:
1758 Linné, Carl von (=Linneaus). Systema Naturae per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis 10th Edition, Volume 1, L. Salvius, Stockholm. iv + 826pp.
1856 Hallowell, Edward Notice of a collection of reptiles from Kansas and Nebraska, presented to the Academy of Natural Sciences, by Dr. Hammond, U.S.A. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia 8():238-253
1857 Hallowell, Edward. Note on the collection of reptiles from the neighborhood of San Antonio, Texas, recently presented to the Academy of Natural Sciences by Dr. A. Heerman. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia 8():306-310
1857 Hallowell, Edward. Notice of a collection of reptiles from Kansas and Nebraska presented to the Academy of Natural Sciences, by Doctor Hammond, U. S. A. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia 8():238-253
1859 Cooper, James G. Report upon the reptiles collected on the survey Pages 292-306 in Cooper, James G. and G. Suckley.  The Natural History of Washington Territory with much relating to Minnesota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oregon, and California. US Government Document, Washington, D. C. pp.
1860 Cooper, J. G. Report upon the reptiles collected on the survey. Pages 292-306 in Cooper, James G. and G. Suckley.  The Natural History of Washington Territory with much relating to Minnesota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oregon, and California. Bailliere Brother, New York, New York. pp.
1860 Cope, Edward D. Supplement to "A catalogue of the venomous serpents in the Museum of the Academy," etc. Supplement to "A catalogue of the venomous serpents in the Museum of the Academy" etc 12():72-74
1877 Mozley, Annie E List of Kansas snakes in the museum of the Kansas State Univeristy Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 6():34-35
1878 Yarrow, Henry C. and H. W. Henshaw. Report upon the reptiles and batrachians collected during the years of 1875, 1876 and 1877 in California, Arizona and Nevada. Pages 4-23 in Annual Report upon the Geographical Surveys of the Territory of the United States West of the One Hundredth Meridian. Appendix NN , Washington, D. C. pp.
1879 Bocourt, M. F. Etudes sur les reptiles, p. i-xiv, 1-1012. In Recherches Zoologiques pour servir a l'Histoire de Ia Faune de l'Amérique Centrale et du Mexique. Mission Scientifique au Mexique et dans l'Amérique Centrale, Recherches zoologiques. Part 2, sect. 1; In A Imprimerie Impériale, Paris [3, Pt. 6]. A Imprimerie Impériale, Paris, France.. 360–440pp.
1882 Yarrow, Henry C. Check list of North American Reptilia and Batrachia with catalogue of specimens in U. S. National Museum. Bulletin of the United States National Museum (24):1-249
1900 Cope, Edward D. The crocodilians, lizards and snakes of North America. Pages 153-1270 in Report of the U. S. National Museum for the Year Ending June 30, 1898 , Washington, D. C. pp.
1901 Brown, Arthur Erwin. A review of the genera and species of American snakes, north of Mexico. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia 53(1):10-110
1904 Branson, Edwin B. Snakes of Kansas. University of Kansas Science Bulletin 2(13):353-430
1911 Hurter, Julius. Herpetology of Missouri. Transactions of the Academy of Science St. Louis 20(5):59-274
1917 Wooster, Lyman D. Nature Study Bulletin Kansas State Printing Plant, Topeka, Kansas.. 63pp.
1925 Gloyd, Howard K. Field studies of the diurnal raptores of Eastern and Central Kansas. The Wilson Bulletin 37(3):133-149
1925 Linsdale, Jean M. Land Vertebrates of a Limited Area in Eastern Kansas. Thesis. University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas. 312pp.
1927 Linsdale, Jean M. Amphibians and reptiles of Doniphan County, Kansas. Copeia 1927(164):75-81
1928 Burt, Charles E. Some distributional and ecological records of Kansas reptiles. Transactions of the Academy of Science St. Louis 26():186-208
1929 Taylor, Edward H. A revised checklist of the snakes of Kansas. University of Kansas Science Bulletin 19(5):53-62
1929 Taylor, Edward H. List of reptiles and batrachians of Morton County, Kansas, reporting species new to the state fauna. University of Kansas Science Bulletin 19(6):63-65
1932 Gloyd, Howard K. The herpetological fauna of the Pigeon Lake Region, Miami County, Kansas. Papers of the Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan 15():389-408
1934 Brennan, Lawrence A. A check list of the amphibians and reptiles of Ellis County, Kansas. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 37():189-191
1934 Burt, Charles E. and W. L. Hoyle. Additional records of the reptiles of the central prairie region of the United States. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 37():193-216
1935 Brennan, Lawrence A. Notes on the Distribution of Amphibia and Reptilia of Ellis County, Kansas. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 114pp.
1935 Burt, Charles E. Further records of the ecology and distribution of amphibians and reptiles in the middle west. American Midland Naturalist 16(3):311-366
1935 Burt, Charles E. and William L. Hoyle. Additional records of the reptiles of the central prairie region of the United States Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 37():193-216
1937 Brennan, Lawrence A. A study of the habitat of reptiles and amphibians of Ellis County, Kansas. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 40():341-347
1937 Grant, Chapman. Herpetological notes from Central Kansas. American Midland Naturalist 18(3):370-372
1944 Marr, John C. Notes on amphibians and reptiles from the central United States. American Midland Naturalist 32(2):478-490
1955 Auffenberg, Walter. A reconsideration of the racer, Coluber constrictor, in eastern United States. Tulane Studies in Zoology and Botany 2(6):89-155
1956 Loomis, Richard B. The chigger mites of Kansas (Acarina, Trombiculidae). University of Kansas Science Bulletin 37():1195-1443
1962 Gish, Charles D. The Herpetofauna of Ellis County, Kansas. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 34pp.
1963 Fitch, Henry S. Natural History of the racer Coluber constrictor. University of Kansas Publications Museum of Natural History 15(8):351-468
1975 Rundquist, Eric M. First KHS field trip yields three county records. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (7):1-3
1976 Caldwell, Janalee P. and Gregory. Glass. Vertebrates of the Woodson County State Fishing Lake and Game Management Area. Pages 62-76 in Preliminary inventory of the biota of Woodson County State Fishing Lake and Game Management Area. Report No. 5. State Biological Survey of Kansas, Lawrence. pp.
1977 Knight, James L. and Joseph T. Collins. The amphibians and reptiles of Cheyenne County, Kansas, Report Number 15. Kansas Biological Survey, Lawrence. 19pp.
1978 Fitch, Henry S. and E. Raymond Hall. A 20year record of succession on reseeded fields of tallgrass prairie on the Rockefeller Experimental Tract. University of Kansas Museum of Natural History Special Publication (4):1-15
1978 Wilson, Larry David. Coluber constrictor. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles (218):1-4
1980 Clarke, Robert F. Herptiles and fishes of the western Arkansas River in Kansas. United States Army Corps of Engineers, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 55pp.
1982 Fitch, Henry S. Resources of a snake community in prairie-woodland habitat of northeastern Kansas. Pages 83-97 in Herpetological communities: A symposium of the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles and the Herpetologists League, August 1977.  Wildlife Research Reports 12. 239 pp. U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, D. C. pp.
1983 Guillette, L.J., Jr. and W.P. Sullivan. Life history notes: Coluber constrictor flaviventris. Herpetological Review 14():19
1986 Schitti, Beat and Larry David Wilson. Coluber. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles (399):1-4
1989 Platt, Dwight R. Seasonal activity of snakes on a sand prairie. Pages 251-254 in Proceedings of the 11th North American Prairie Conference University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln. pp.
1991 Collins, Joseph T. and Suzanne L. Collins. Reptiles and Amphibians of the Cimarron National Grasslands, Morton County, Kansas. U. S. Forest Service, Elkhart, Kansas. 60pp.
1991 Fitch, Henry S. Reptiles and amphibians of the Kansas ecological reserves. Pages 71-74 in Multidisciplinary Guidebook 4. Kansas Academy of Science, Lawrence. pp.
1992 Ball, Robert L. High plains serpents: Results of a long-term study in Texas County, Oklahoma and Morton County, Kansas Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (88):16-17
1993 Collins, Joseph T. and Suzanne L. Collins. Amphibians and Reptiles in Kansas. Third Edition. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Lawrence. 397pp.
1994 Fitzgerald, Eve and Charles Nilon Classification of habitats for endangered and threatened species in Wyandotte County, Kansas Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Pratt, Kansas. 98pp.
1996 Miller, Larry L. Many amphibian and reptile species identified during KHS 1996 fall field trip to Wabaunsee County. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (106):2-3
1996 Miller, Larry L. Third graders conduct amphibian and reptile field study. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (106):15
1998 Rundquist, Eric M. Racer reproduction and diet observation. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (113):15
1998 Rundquist, Eric M. Winter snake activity. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter 111():16
2000 Taggart, Travis W. Biogeographic analysis of the reptiles (Squamata) in Ellis County, Kansas. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (121):7-16
2001 Kretzer, Justin E. and Jack F. Cully, Jr. Effects of Blacktailed Prairie Dogs on reptiles and amphibians in Kansas shortgrass prairie. Southwestern Naturalist 46(2):171-177
2001 Schmidt, Curtis J. The amphibians, turtles, and reptiles of the Smoky Valley Ranch, Logan County, Kansas. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (124):9-11
2001 Shewchuk, Christopher H. and James D. Austin. Foot habits of the Racer (Coluber constrictor mormon) in the northern part of its range. Herpetological Journal 11():151-155
2001 Taggart, Travis W. The KHS 2001 spring field trip: A rainy rendezvous. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (124):43084
2002 Miller, Larry L. Osage County herp count II. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (4):15
2002 Miller, Larry L. Shawnee County herp count. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (4):15
2002 Riedle, J. Daren and A. Hynek. Amphibian and reptile inventory of the Kansas Army Ammunition Plant, Labette County, Kansas. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (2):18-20
2002 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the KHS 2002 fall field Trip. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (4):11-13
2002 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the spring 2002 KHS field trip. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (3):6-7
2002 Taggart, Travis W. and Curtis J. Schmidt. Geographic distribution: Coluber constrictor. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (2):10
2003 Freeman, Craig C. A natural areas inventory of the Ft. Leavenworth Military Reservation, Leavenworth County, Kansas. II. Open-file Report No. 117. Kansas Biological Survey, Lawrence, Kansas. 199pp.
2003 Taggart, Travis W. Communal brumaculum. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (5):16
2004 Delisle, Jennifer M. and William H. Busby Biological inventory for vertebrates at Fort Larned National Historic Site of the southern plains network. Natural Heritage Inventory, Kansas Biological Survey, Lawrence. 61pp.
2006 Taggart, Travis W. Addendum report to biological inventory of the sandsage prairie near Holcomb, Kansas. Sunflower Electric Cooperative, Hays, Kansas. 31pp.
2006 Taggart, Travis W. Distribution and status of Kansas herpetofauna in need of information. State Wildlife Grant T7. Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Pratt. vii + 106pp.
2007 Pyron, R. Alexander. A revised distribution record of Masticophis in Kansas. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (24):16
2007 Taggart, Travis W. A biological inventory of the Sunflower Electric Site near Holcomb, Kansas. Journal of Kansas Herpetology 23():11-16
2010 Miller, Larry L. 2010 Investigation of the Checkered Garter Snake in Kansas with notes on other Amphibians, Reptiles, and Turtles encountered. Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Pratt, Kansas. 31pp.
2011 McMartin, David C. U. S. Army 2011 Fort Leavenworth Herpetofaunal Survey: 23 April - 09 May 2011. Privately printed, Leavenworth, Kansas. 33pp.
2012 Rohweder, Megan R. Spatial conservation prioritization of Kansas for terrestrial vertebrates. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 151pp.
2016 Pittman, Galen L., Henry S. Fitch, and W. Dean Kettle Vertebrate animals on the Fitch Natural History Reservation (1948-2002) Kansas Biological Survey Report Number 188, Lawrence. 48pp.
Account Last Updated:
10/9/2018 7:57:26 AM


Travis W. Taggart © 2019 — Sternberg Museum of Natural History, Fort Hays State University