NORTH AMERICAN RACER
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.
Much geographic variation is attributed to this wide-ranging polytypic taxon where it occurs in North America. However, no geographic variation have been reported with those populations occurring in Kansas.
Racer can be distinguished by its smooth scales from the Rough Green Snake. The Coachwhip has two scales bordering the front edge of each eye (1 in the Racer) and ten or more scales on each lower lip (the racer has less than 10). Juveniles can be distinguished from small Bullsnakes, Great Plains Ratsnakes, and Prairie Kingsnakes by the speckling on the belly (other species have a blocky or checkerboard belly pattern).
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 form 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.
County Breakdown: County Name (# occurrences)
Allen (12), Anderson (23), Atchison (9), Barber (23), Barton (4), Bourbon (28), Brown (2), Butler (4), Chase (18), Chautauqua (3), Cherokee (24), Cheyenne (11), Clark (9), Clay (1), Cloud (3), Coffey (4), Comanche (7), Cowley (57), Crawford (6), Decatur (8), Dickinson (5), Doniphan (11), Douglas (98), Edwards (3), Elk (9), Ellis (127), Ellsworth (12), Finney (17), Ford (2), Franklin (14), Geary (6), Gove (23), Graham (9), Grant (5), Gray (4), Greeley (1), Greenwood (26), Hamilton (10), Harper (19), Harvey (8), Haskell (3), Hodgeman (10), Jackson (4), Jefferson (21), Jewell (3), Johnson (16), Kearney (4), Kingman (3), Kiowa (12), Labette (3), Lane (4), Leavenworth (14), Lincoln (5), Linn (21), Logan (10), Lyon (36), Marion (2), Marshall (17), McPherson (2), Meade (23), Miami (34), Mitchell (2), Montgomery (4), Morris (1), Morton (7), Nemaha (1), Neosho (5), Ness (10), Norton (2), Osage (5), Osborne (7), Ottawa (2), Pawnee (2), Phillips (11), Pottawatomie (26), Pratt (4), Rawlins (9), Reno (3), Republic (7), Rice (6), Riley (56), Rooks (16), Rush (4), Russell (51), Saline (13), Scott (6), Sedgwick (1), Seward (14), Shawnee (3), Sheridan (1), Sherman (1), Smith (1), Stafford (10), Stanton (4), Stevens (1), Sumner (3), Thomas (2), Trego (23), Wabaunsee (13), Wallace (10), Washington (7), Wichita (4), Wilson (5), Woodson (3), Wyandotte (9)
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.
Females lay their eggs from mid-June to early August, usually in tunnels or burrows of small mammals, such as moles and often under rocks or slabs of concrete. More than one female may use the same nest site at the same time. The number of eggs per clutch ranges from five to 31 (Fitch, 1985), with an average of eleven or twelve. Incubation takes from two to three months. Guillette and Sullivan (1883) reported a case of successful incubation of eggs removed from a pregnant road-killed Racer in Harvey County.
The Racer is diurnal, spending the day basking in the sun or gliding swiftly over the ground in search of food. During winter, this species crawls deep into rock crevices on wooded hillsides, where it remains inactive until spring
The Racer relies primarily on sight to capture food. I t pursues and eats any small animal that moves. According to Fitch (1963), 1982), this snake eats insects, frogs, lizards, other snakes, birds, bird eggs, and small mammals. Henderson (1974) working in Douglas County, found the diet of this snake to consists of insects, smaller snakes, and small mammals.
Predators and Defense:
Primary predators of this species are hawks and small mammals.
Growth and Longevity:
Kansas Racers typically reach 23-50 inches in total length. The largest specimen form Kansas is a female (KU 192239) from Jefferson County with a total length of 55.5 inches (1,413 mm), collected by Rick Strawn on 31 May 1982. The maximum length for this wide-ranging species is 73 inches (Conant and Collins, 1991). Fitch (1982) listed the maximum weight for a Kansas specimen at 1 lb 3 oz. (538 g).
Fossil specimens are known from Meade (Fox Canyon Local Fauna, Rexroad 3 Fauna, Wendell Fox Pasture, Deer Park Local Fauna, and Borchers Local Fauna), Rice, Seward (Saw Rock Local Fauna) and Jewell counties.
1758. Linneaus, Carl. Systema Naturae per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. 10th Edition, Volume 1, L. Salvius, Stockholm. Pp. iv + 826.
1963. Fitch, Henry S. Natural history of the racer, Coluber constrictor. University of Kansas Publications, Museum of Natual History. 15(8): pp. 351-468.
1993. Collins, Joseph T. Amphibians and Reptiles of Kansas. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Lawrence. Pp. 397.