One of the most common snakes on Hilton Head Island, the black racer (Coluber constrictor) is well-named, as it is built for speed. The adult snakes are long and thin, tapering quickly to the end of the tail. They are a satiny black on the back and gray or black on the belly, with a white chin and throat. The young of this species looks nothing like the adult snake. The young are patterned on the back with blotches of black, gray, brown or reddish brown on a background of gray or bluish gray, with small dark spots on the sides. The young hatch from eggs at a length that ranges from 7.5-14 inches, and can grow up to 6 feet in length when full grown. They have large eyes and are active predators, feeding on rats, mice, small birds, lizards, snakes, frogs and insects.
When cornered, black racers will often strike out and will vibrate their tails to try and convince their attackers that they are a rattlesnake. In fact, black racers are not poisonous and are harmless to humans, as are the great majority of snakes found on Hilton Head Island. All snakes play the important environmental role of helping to control populations of animals we consider pests, such as rats and mice. When snakes begin to disappear, these pests increase in number.
Help us to preserve the environmental balance of the island by learning to identify our native snakes and tolerating their presence. If you find a venomous snake on your property and wish to remove it, call one of the wildlife rescue or control groups and ask them to relocate it where it will pose little threat to humans.
Savannah River Ecology Laboratory: http://srelherp.uga.edu/snakes/colcon.htm