The Racer is listed as a species of Special Concern by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (Moriarty, 1996).
This is a large Minnesota species measuring between 23 and 50 inches in length (Conant and Collins, 1991). Adults are uniformly blue, bluish black, greenish, or light brown. There are no head or dorsal markings. The undersurface is dirty white, porcelain, or yellow with no markings. The throat and neck are bright yellow and the chin and upper labials may be yellow or white. This is one of the few Minnesota snakes that go through a remarkable ontogenetic color and pattern change. The young are vividly marked above and below having a white or gray ground color with black, brown, or reddish blotches. Their bellies are white with small brown or reddish spots. They lose these markings and develop adult coloration in one to two years. Racers have smooth scales and divided anal plates.
Of the nine subspecies of racers in the United States (Collins, 1997), only one, the eastern yellowbelly racer (Coluber constrictor flaviventris), is found in Minnesota (LeClere, 1996). This serpent is also referred to as the "blue racer."
The racer is found in southeastern and areas of south central Minnesota in suitable habitat along much of the Mississippi and parts of the Minnesota River Valleys.
Racers prefer open prairie, woodland edge, and bluff prairies. They live in fields, grasslands, and railroad grades adjacent to these habitats.
Racers are the quickest snakes in Minnesota and also our most visually oriented. They are active hunters, moving quietly through grass and brush in search of food. They are diurnal even in hot weather. This thermoregulatory habit enhances their ability to chase down and capture fast moving prey. When they feel threatened, they can flee with incredible speed. They seem to have good home range orientation as they will slither, often toward an intruder, and zip into a preferred hiding spot. When cornered, they may raise their head, strike, and vibrate their tails, (which turns out like a rapid tail wagging when compared to rat, bull, or fox snakes). Generally, if they are picked up, they will musk, defecate, and bite by striking and chewing with their long teeth. But, I have seen some specimens curl up in a ball and hide their head in their coils. I have observed this behavior on hot and cool days alike. On cool rainy days, racers may be found hiding under rocks, logs, boards, or in rocky crevices. They are active from mid April to October (Blasus, 1997) and hibernate below the frost line often with other species of snakes such as garter snakes, milk snakes, bull snakes, timber rattlesnakes, fox snakes, and other racers. They breed in spring, and the female lays 5-25 rather granular feeling eggs which hatch around late August.
This snake probably has the most diverse eating habits of any Minnesota snake. They will eat about anything they can chase down. Food items include: rodents, insects, frogs, toads, lizards, snakes, reptile eggs, birds, and birds' eggs. They are not constrictors, but they may use a loop or two of their coils to press victims to the ground. Large prey are shaken violently and rapidly chewed upon with the racers' strong jaws, while smaller food is simply swallowed alive. I have found the fecal matter of many wild racers are comprised largely of locust exoskeletons (LeClere, 1996). Many people have witnessed Racers chasing and consuming six-lined racerunners (not an easy task), and other snakes. On two occasions, young fox snakes were being consumed by racers when they were discovered (Jessen, 1993; Bergquist, pers comm.) and a large eastern garter snake on another (Lydon, pers comm.). Young racers have been seen eating small brown and red-bellied snakes (LeClere, pers obs.).