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Ohio State Reptile

Black Racer Snake

Black Racer Snake

(Coluber constrictor constrictor)

Adopted in 1995.

The Black Racer Snake, (Coluber constrictor constrictor,) was adopted in 1995.

Jacob Mercer, as a fourth-grade student, initiated the designation when he sent a letter to state representatives and senators suggesting that Ohio name an official reptile. He and his classmates say they decided on the black racer snake because it is native to all 88 Ohio counties and is called the "farmer's friend" because it eats disease-carrying rodents.

In 1995, the Ohio Legislature made the Black Racer Ohio's official reptile due to the snake's prevalence in the state. The Black Racer's scientific name is Coluber constrictor constrictor. The Black Racer lives in Ohio's eastern and southern counties. The closely related Blue Racer, Coluber constrictor foxi lives in the northern and western portion of the state. The only real difference between these two snakes is their color, with Black Racers being entirely black and the Blue Racers having a gray or greenish tint to their skin. Both varieties of snakes are non-poisonous. They provide valuable assistance to Ohio's farmers by killing various types of rodents that can cause damage to the farmers' crops.

Ohio State Reptile: Black Racer Snake

Black Racer Snake

The racer is the only large, black snake in New England with smooth scales. Its chin, throat and jaw are white or gray and the belly is generally dark (gray, bluish, or black) from the throat back. Smooth scales give this snake a silky or satin-like appearance. A juvenile racer is gray with large brown, black or reddish blotches down the back, small spots along the sides and large dark eyes. The pattern fades with age, disappearing when the snake reaches 25-30 inches in length.

Racers mate in the spring, and females deposit 10-12 eggs in small mammal burrows, under rocks or logs, or in mulch piles or rotting logs. Eggs laid in June or July normally hatch in August and September.

Black racers are common snakes that utilize a variety of habitats including rocky ledges, pastures, overgrown fields, dry or moist woodlands and the edges of wetlands. Small mammals, other snakes and insects are preferred food items, although racers take a wide variety of prey. They will even feed on young of their own species. Active primarily during the day, racers are commonly seen as they bask on shrubs, rocks, ledges and roads, and are tolerant of summer temperatures that would drive other snakes to seek shelter. Aptly named, racers are very fast and typically flee from danger. However, once cornered they put up a vigorous fight, biting hard and often. Rattling their tails among dry leaves, racers can sound convincingly like rattlesnakes. If captured they are difficult to handle and will writhe, defecate and spray musk in an attempt to escape.

Ohio Law

The law designating the black racer as the official Ohio state reptile is found in the Ohio Revised Code, General Provisions, Chapter 5, Section 5.031.

Section 5.031

5.031 State reptile.

The snake, Coluber constrictor constrictor, known as the black racer, is the official reptile of the state.

HISTORY: 146 v H 228. Eff 11-24-95.

Taxonomic Hierarchy: Black Racer

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
    Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
    Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
    Subfamily: Colubrinae
Genus: Coluber
Species: C. constrictor

State Reptiles
State Reptiles
Twenty-six U.S. states have named an official state reptile. As with other state symbols, states compare admirable aspects of the reptile and of the state, within designating statutes. Schoolchildren often start campaigns promoting their favorite reptile to encourage state legislators to enact it as a state symbol. Many secretaries of state maintain educational web pages that describe the state reptile.
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