A Race to the End

Black Racer Snake

Black Racer Snake

Like snakes? This is a story of snake predation skills, so this is a story for you.  Hate snakes?  One meets his demise so this is a story for you as well.  How is this possible?  Read on…

Meet the Southern Black Racer Snake (Coluber constrictor priapus), a non-venomous slitherer. It just so happens that I was slapped by the snake’s tail.  Truth is I’m not exactly sure who’s tail I was slapped with but a snake’s tail it was.

What?  two snakes?

What? two snakes?

Wandering around out back, not far from the pond, I was moseying along a path that the brush has overgrown a bit.  I innocently stepped on my snake friend having not seen him (her?) in the taller grass.  That’s when the tail slapped me.  As I looked, I was a little taken aback…not from fear, but from astonishment as a bigger snake was wresting with a smaller snake and I’m not sure if the bigger guy slapped me with his own tail, or was swinging the smaller snake around and slapped me with the other guy’s tail.  Or perhaps it was his head I was slapped with.

OMG they're FIGHTING.  The takedown!

OMG they’re FIGHTING. The takedown!

I immediately started clicking the camera, but the snakes were thrashing and then backing up. Surprisingly, they move as quickly backward as they do forward. These very dexterous snakes slithered off into some side brush before I could get any clear shots.

Dragging the bounty, trying to hide from me

Dragging the bounty, trying to hide from that crazy lady with the camera

I was not about to miss photographing this encounter, so I ran over to grab a groundsel sapling that I had just upended and used it as a probe to move away the dried grass and pine needles.  I saw out of the corner of my eye that the snakes had moved in unison to the left.  Still backing up, but slower so that I could at least get some photos.

Getting a good grip on that kid

Getting a good grip on that kid

I watched as the older manhandled the younger flipping and grabbing him by the throat.  I cringed as he took him down (if you are already on the ground, can you be legitimately be “taken down”????). Then I watched in horror as he inhaled him like some sort of fat spaghetti and the smaller snake disappeared ever so slowly.

Ok, I've got him

Ok, I’ve got him

I wasn’t entirely confident in my identification of the smaller snake, so I dashed off a few photos to my trusty pal Swamp Girl of Swamp Girl Adventures fame. She quickly replied that I had two black racer snakes…one adult, one juvenile.  I was confident in my identification of the adult, but juveniles have a range of different color and pattern configurations, so I leave it to the experts to tell me what I am seeing.  These snakes are thin and long…VERY long.  Two to five foot long.

Ewwww!  Crunch!

Ewwww! Crunch!

Now, Swamp Girl, also known as Kim, works with snakes and other critters, doing rescue, educational programs with live critters, videos and such.  She reported that she had heard of this type of behavior, but had never actually witnessed it.

The diet of the Black Racer Snake includes insects, lizards, birds, rodents, amphibians and obviously, other snakes.  They consume their bounty live.

Where's the spaghetti sauce?

Where’s the spaghetti sauce?

Hmmmmm…could my successful rat control endeavors have left my poor snakes hungry and with no alternatives but to resort to this cannibalistic diet???  Now that I think about it, the population of brown anoles seems to have waned somewhat.  But heck, there are still plenty of invasive cuban treefrogs that I would sure love to be rid of, but of course, being non-native to Florida, they aren’t high on the diet list of our native fauna.

It should be noted that Black Racers are pretty adept at climbing trees, so it pays to look up if you are “snake hunting” with your camera.  You can encourage snakes to take up residence in your yard by providing brush and woodpiles or similar materials for them to take cover in.  They also will use burrows in the ground, so get them a mole and an armadillo or two. Hehehe.  They are not aggressive, but they will bite if you corner them.  I can speak from experience that they don’t bite if you step on them…well, at least not when they have a snake in their mouth, or when their head is in the mouth of another snake.

On the other side of it, Black Racer Snakes are eaten by birds, mammals, kingsnakes and ummmm, obviously larger Racers.  :)



So, we have a clear example of survival of the fittest, or a clear example of bullying, depending on whose side you were on. Another exciting week for me since, as we all know, I need a new encounter story each week and in my never-ending habitat of a yard, Mother Nature refuses to let me down. Mom is handy that way.

© 2013, Loret T. Setters. All rights reserved. This article is the property of BeautifulWildlifeGarden.com We have received many requests to reprint our work. Our policy is that you are free to use a short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact form above if you have any questions.

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    • says

      Way to go Marilyn. I kinda was too. At first I thought maybe it was one of the pygmy rattlers and then I wasn’t. Once I saw his head I realized that he was nonvenomous and I got behind him, Shaking my pom poms and yelling Come on David….take that that bully Goliath.
      Loret T. Setters recently posted..Arnold surfs the windshield

  1. Theresa says

    I remember seeing something like this when I was growing up (in Texas). My family was taking a walk and noticed a snake in the grass. Then after a closer look, could see that one snake was eating another. No idea what kind of snake either of them was. But it was certainly a crazy thing to see.

  2. says

    Fascinating! I have yet to attract a snake to my yard. If I do, I will consider it a success story. I’m hoping for a cute little garter snake. Here in Northern NY, I believe we have black rat snakes that can reach up to 8 feet in length, but I’m not sure they eat each other. I would think my garden is too small to support a snake of that size.

  3. Suzanne Dingwell says

    Omigosh, Loret!! The drama! The pathos! The incredibly quick stick action by an alert and fearless naturalist – this story does indeed have it all. I had at least one breeding pair of black racers in my native Florida yard and I loved seeing them, though I never had a piece of action like this. They really are fast movers and so graceful as they slither through the grass. I remember coming face to face with one when I slowly reached up into a thorny palm tree near my house to prune it back a bit. Suddenly I realized a silent black presence draped in lazy coils around a frond just inches from my face. I knew they would bite if threatened and slowly backed out. But I loved sharing my space with them. Thanks so much for telling your story, I really enjoyed it.

  4. says

    What fun that you got to experience your own “Wild Kingdom” moment in your wildlife garden! I’ve only seen Worm Snakes and Garter Snakes in my PA wildlife garden, but counted myself especially blessed one day when I visited Pat Suttons’ NJ wildlife garden and got to watch a Black Racer sunning himself in a tree in her front garden.
    Carole Sevilla Brown recently posted..Roadsides for Wildlife


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