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Posts Tagged ‘Northern Black Racer snake’

I got a definite “Don’t mess with me” vibe when I encountered this Northern Black Racer snake (Coluber constrictor constrictor) last week at Occoquan Regional Park and moved on quickly after capturing these images. Most snakes slither away when they first detect my presence, but this one reared up a bit and started to feverish flick its forked tongue at me.

Black Racers are somewhat similar in appearance to the Eastern Rat Snake that I featured last week (See the posting Ready to shed?), but are a bit smaller in size and have shinier, smoother skins. Several of my Facebook friends noted that Black Racers also tend to be more aggressive and reported having been chased by one.


Black Racer

Black Racer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Our recent warm weather has caused all kinds of creatures to reappear, like this Eastern Ratsnake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis) that I spotted on Wednesday while hiking in Prince William Forest Park. I kept my distance and relied on a telephoto lens to zoom closer even though I knew that this snake was not poisonous. I am not sure how long the snake was, but as you can see in the second photo it looked to be quite long. According to the Virginia Herpetological Society website, the Eastern Ratsnake is the only snake in Virginia that can grow to be more than six feet (183 cm) in length.

UPDATE: A snake expert weighed in on my Facebook posting about this snake and noted that, “This is a Black Racer (Coluber constrictor constrictor). It’s harder to tell with the mud, but the dorsal scales are unkeeled, the skull shape too round, scale shape more rhombus-like, and eyes too big.” This just reinforces the notion that the more that I learn, the more I realize how little I know—that is why it is great to have experts around to help us identify what we see and photograph. The average size of a Northern Black Racer is “only” 36-60 inches (90-152 cm).

 

Eastern Ratsnake

Eastern Ratsnake

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What’s your first reaction when you see a snake? I was walking through the woods at my local marsh this past weekend when I spotted a snake curled up on the leaves. My first reaction was to move closer to get a shot of the snake.

The area was relatively open, but there were lots of leaves and sticks on the forest floor, so it was not really possible to get an unobstructed shot of the snake. I took a shot anyways, fearing the snake would leave, and include it as a second image here so you can see how the snake was positioned. I noticed that the snake’s head was in an uncluttered area and a clear shot seemed possible. I changed lenses from my telephoto zoom to my macro lens, set up my tripod as low as it would go, and moved really close, until the snake’s head almost filled the frame of my viewfinder. I took some shots in natural light and some with my popup flash. The snake seemed unbothered by my actions until I inadvertently moved a small branch when adjusting my position on ground and he slithered away.

When I looked at the images on my computer, I was struck by the degree to which my reflection is visible in the snake’s eye. If you click on the first photo, you’ll get a higher resolution view that shows me taking the shot (with flash this time).

I am not sure what kind of snake this is, but it looks a bit like a Northern Black Racer snake (Coluber constrictor constrictor) as described on the webpage of the Virginia Herpetological Society. I’d welcome a confirmation or correction of my identification from anyone with more experience with snakes.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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When I came across this fairly large snake, which I think is a Northern Black Racer snake (Coluber constrictor constrictor), I was happy that I had a fairly long telephoto lens.

He looked to be about 48 inches long (1.2 meters) and was partially coiled on top of a bush at the edge of the beaver pond at my local marsh. Although he was basking in the sun, he was definitely alert, which was one of the reasons why I was very cautious. The photo provides a close-up view of his head, but it was shot with my zoom lens at about 340mm, so I was not close and personal with him.

Wikipedia notes that this snake usually swallows its prey alive, despite the “constrictor” in its Latin name. Although these snakes will try to avoid predators, “once cornered they put up a vigorous fight, biting hard and often.” I’ll definitely keep that in mind.

One other interesting bit of trivia that I discovered about the Northern Black Racer snake (and I recognize that I could be wrong in my identification) is that the snake was designated as the official state reptile of Ohio in 1995.

snake_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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