The Scaly Speckled Racer: A Snake Species Profile

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The speckled racer (Drymobius margaritiferus) is a species of nonvenomous snake, the only one in the genus Drymobius margaritiferus and family Colubridae. The speckled racer lives in southern regions of the United States, including Florida, Louisiana, and Texas, as well as in Mexico, Central America, and South America.

Its range includes the Caribbean islands, southern Panama, and some of the Lesser Antilles Islands like Saint Kitts and Nevis.

Background Information

This snake, otherwise known as the speckled racer, (Coluber constrictor foxii) is an extremely colorful and fast-moving species of snake found throughout parts of North America. It has been known to kill its prey with a single bite to their neck or spine, often within 10 minutes.

The speckled racer is a diurnal animal that actively hunts for food during daylight hours. Their sense of sight and smell are acutely developed for hunting, which helps them find ground squirrels, chipmunks, lizards and other small animals in order to survive.

However their diet also includes snakes such as brown water snakes and gray rat snakes. While they will eat eggs if given the opportunity, it is not part of their normal diet. The average lifespan of these snakes in captivity is about 20 years but wild specimens can live up to 25 years.

They can grow up to 4 feet long, but most adult specimens only reach 3 feet long on average. These reptiles have many natural predators including hawks, eagles and humans because they are considered a delicacy by some cultures around the world.

Appearance

The speckled racer is a light-brown snake, with dark brown and black speckles that cover its whole body. Its head is flat on top, and it has three yellow stripes running down its face. The belly is white or cream colored. Juveniles are orange or red in color, with darker black spots all over their bodies.

This species of snake ranges from 20-46 inches long (excluding its tail), making it average sized for most species of North American snakes. It’s not considered venomous to humans, but bites have been known to cause swelling and mild pain.

It lives up to 10 years in captivity, but only 5 years in the wild. The snake eats mainly mice, lizards, small birds and other small mammals. When threatened by predators such as coyotes or foxes, they hiss loudly while puffing out their necks to make themselves look bigger than they really are.

If that doesn’t work, they will shed their skin while trying to escape into hiding places like under rocks or logs. They lay eggs around May through July after mating in April/May.

Baby racers are usually born around August/September after an incubation period of about 60 days at 80 degrees Fahrenheit; it takes 2 months for them to fully hatch once laid.

Speckled Racer Snake Information

Distribution

Eastern Washington and Oregon, Northern California, Idaho, and western Montana. Bites are uncommon but have happened (contact your local wildlife agency if you have been bitten). Be safe around snakes.

They may look slow and docile, but they are wild animals with a healthy fear of humans; they will strike when provoked. Never feed or handle wild snakes because it is illegal to do so and can endanger you as well as them.

If you see a snake in your yard or house, contact Animal Control in your city/town to remove it safely without risk of injury. Avoid running from a snake; instead freeze to avoid startling it and back away slowly. Do not approach a snake that appears agitated or aggressive.

If you need to relocate a snake, call your local animal control office for assistance. Do not try to relocate it yourself—you could end up harming both yourself and the animal.

Remember that snakes are an important part of our ecosystem; most species eat rodents and help keep rodent populations under control! As long as they’re treated respectfully, there’s no reason to fear these slithering creatures!

Behavior

The speckled racer is active during both day and night. You can find it under logs, stumps, rocks and other debris in wooded areas near water sources. It feeds on small rodents, frogs and lizards as well as bird eggs.

When confronted by a threat they will often freeze, blend into their surroundings or bite if cornered. If you’re lucky enough to spot one of these reclusive snakes I highly recommend leaving them alone; they are non-venomous but still quite capable of delivering a painful bite which could lead to infection or allergic reaction.

Instead photograph them from afar with a long lens (if possible) for a great photo op! Oddly enough, despite its distinctive scales, when born hatchlings are actually green in color before developing their trademark pattern over time.

They also shed more frequently than most snake species, meaning there is rarely a dull moment when trying to get good photos of these reptiles.

They average around 2 feet in length but can grow up to 4 feet – however keep in mind that most specimens only live about 2 years due to high mortality rates from predators like foxes and hawks.

Diet

This snake is strictly carnivorous, feeding on small mammals, lizards, and frogs. They also commonly eat other snakes. With such a diverse diet, these reptiles require a large amount of food. Because of their large size and unique coloration it has earned them a place as one of Alabama’s most popular reptiles.

Due to its high level of activity and fast metabolism, captive animals are often fed mice or rats once every three days. Wild individuals have been observed eating an entire mouse in one sitting! When larger prey items are unavailable, they will supplement their diets with birds and bird eggs.

When dealing with smaller prey items they will strike at lightning speed, while larger prey may be subdued using constriction techniques similar to those used by pythons. Their jaws will exert pressures of up to 700 pounds per square inch when feeding.

All species of racer snakes bear live young instead of laying eggs. Once she mates with a male (sometimes even after only one mating), she retains his sperm for several years until she ovulates and lays her eggs – about 2-5 dozen at a time – which hatch after an incubation period lasting several months from spring through fall depending on weather conditions.

Conservation Status

The speckled racer is listed as Least Concern. Although not much data is available, it’s believed that population numbers are trending downward. Specific threats are poorly understood, but these animals may be in danger of being persecuted due to their resemblance to copperheads.

The mortality rate for youngsters and young adults appears to be fairly high, with most likely causes including accidental death by humans or predation from larger snakes and other reptiles.

This species has been reported in a number of protected areas throughout its range, so current conservation efforts seem to be working.

Interesting Facts

The speckled racer is a medium-sized snake in its class. While specimens are known to grow up to four feet long, it’s not unheard of for them to reach five feet.

As you might expect, juvenile snakes tend to be smaller than adults; however, once they grow past three feet, they remain approximately that size for their entire lives.

This means that if you see a snake three feet long, it will likely stay at that length for life—and if you see one six feet long, it will probably always be six feet long.

This makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint—the more mature a species is, and thus larger and stronger and better adapted to fight off predators and compete with other animals for food and territory, the less likely it will need to change over time.

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