Friday, June 5, 2009

Snake Update: Coluber Constrictor

OOOOH, that sounds bad! Constrictor? But, its common name is Yellow Bellied Racer, Western Yellow Bellied Racer, or Western Racer. There are also Eastern Yellow Bellied Racers (photo credit).

From the Western Ecological Research Center in San Diego, I found this information:

Scientific name: Coluber constrictor mormon

Common name: Western Yellow-Bellied Racer

Size: 14.2-29.5 in (36-75 cm)

Distinguishing characters: A slender snake with large eyes and round pupils; smooth scales and brown, olive or bluish on dorsum; white or pale yellow venter; tail long and slender.

Juveniles: Lighter background with brown crossbars or conjoined blotches across back; smaller blotches on sides.

Dimorphism: None

Similar species: Arizona elegans: Has countersunk lower jaw. Pituophis melanoleucas: Has keeled scales. Hypsiglena torquata: Has flat head and vertical pupils. These species can resemble juveniles of Coluber constrictor. Adult Coluber constrictor are fairly distinctive, but could be confused with Thamnophis hammondii (has keeled dorsal scales and yellow side stripes).

Additional notes: A fast moving species that is difficult to capture in the wild. May excrete musk and bite when handled. Prefers grasslands and riparian habitats.

Bite? EEK! Well, the ones we have had in our garage are certainly young ones, and their mouths were luckily not big enough to wrap around our fingers. Or were they? Perhaps they can unhinge, like most snakes, and make that maw a huge, gaping, tunnel of snakey biting force...
Like in the photo here, where I found some more really interesting information! These reptilian slitherers with their fork-ed tongues live from California to Canada, from sea level to 7,000 feet. Which is why they are in my yard in Oregon.

They are nonpoisonous, and are considered harmless to humans. They like a habitat of meadows, grassland, woodlands, and riparian areas like ponds and forest openings. Found in arid and moist habitats. Amilia says we live in the "woods" so I guess we fall right in there.

I am glad we did not kill them, because they eat lizards, small mammals (like mice, moles, voles, and the like), birds, eggs (better not get my chicken eggs!!), snakes, small turtles and frogs, and large insects. So, on the whole, they are good to have around. But I still maintain that they do not belong in my garage.

I will have to remember to look before I leap
from now on!



Margaret said...

I think it must be time to present new housing options, preferably far away the hen house. I wonder..are they really so many different colors as depicted in the photos.

Sinclair said...

I don't know about the photo color variations, but the ones we had here were sort of grayish greenish army green, but it changes tone when they mnove. The undersides were a pale yellow.