Species At Risk

Blue Racer

(Coluber constrictor foxii)

Endangered

Blue Racer
Blue Racer occurrences map

Description

The Blue Racer is a large, non-venomous snake that grows to 1.5 meters in length. It is named for its speed and distinctive grayish-blue or blue-green body colour. The belly is usually a lighter blue-green or whitish hue.

Range

In Ontario, the Blue Racer is currently found only on Pelee Island in western Lake Erie. The population appears to have declined since 1995, when there were about 205 adult Blue Racers on Pelee Island.

Ontario’s Blue Racers range over a wide area - the average is 111 hectares for females and 201 hectares for males.

Habitat

The Blue Racer prefers open habitat with abundant cover such as prairie, savanna, alvar and open woodlands. It also lives in pastures and abandoned farm fields where it can find a plentiful bounty of rodents, its primary food source. Females lay their eggs in rotting logs or compost piles that serve as incubators until the eggs hatch. In winter, the Blue Racer hibernates below the frost line in rock crevices.

Threats

The most significant threats to the Blue Racer are habitat loss or degradation, loss of overwintering sites, human persecution, and road mortality. Although Blue Racers can be found in old farm fields, they are relatively intolerant of human disturbance.

Protection

The Blue Racer is protected under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act and the federal Species at Risk Act. This species has also been designated as a Specially Protected Reptile under the Ontario Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act.

What You Can Do to Help the Blue Racer

  • The Ministry of Natural Resources tracks species at risk such as the Blue Racer. The Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas collects observations of all Ontario reptiles and amphibians. Submit your observations to either of these databases at nhic.mnr.gov.on.ca/species/species_report.cfm and www.ontarionature.org/atlas. Photographs are important to help confirm the identification of species and are always helpful.
  • Try to develop an appreciation for snakes; they play an important role in our environment. Whether in a field or in your backyard, if you come across a snake, keep in mind that you are much larger than it is and the snake is more afraid of you than you are of it.
  • If you come across a snake, please don’t try to capture it, handle it or kill it. Snakes can be delicate and improper handling can cause serious injury. Also, certain species are protected under legislation, which makes it illegal to harass, harm or kill them. Be respectful and observe from a distance.
  • Report any illegal activity related to plants and wildlife to 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667).
  • You can help improve Blue Racer habitat by planting or leaving long grassy areas on your property (especially adjacent to woodlands or meadows) and planting hedgerows, which provide hiding places.
  • Although species at risk are protected, poachers have been known to capture individuals for the pet or food trade. Never buy snakes that have been caught in the wild and never buy a native species of any kind that’s being sold as a pet.
  • Watch for snakes that may be crossing roads between May and October. Road mortality iis a significant threat to Ontario’s Blue Racer population. If it is safe to do so, help them across the road.
  • Private land owners have an important role to play in species at risk recovery.If you find a Blue Racer on your property, you may be eligible for stewardship programs that support the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats.
  • Volunteer with your local nature club or provincial park to participate in surveys or stewardship work focused on species at risk.
  • Visit the Ontario reptile and Amphibian Atlas (www.ontarionature.org/atlas) or Toronto Zoo Adopt-a-Pond website (www.torontozoo.com/Adoptapond) to learn more about Ontario’s rare snakes, their habitat and related conservation initiatives.

Did you know?

The Blue Racer is non-venomous, as are most of Ontario’s snakes, except for the rare Massasauga rattlesnake, which would rather flee or hide than bite!

Did you know?

The Blue Racer is a constrictor. This snake suffocates prey (usually rodents and birds) by wrapping the coils of its body around the prey and squeezing.

Did you know?

The Blue Racer is among the most graceful and swiftest of Ontario’s snakes, though it only reaches a top speed of 12 to16 kilometres per hour. It is easily startled and will flee if threatened. It will also imitate a rattlesnake by vibrating the tip of its tail in leaf litter to produce a buzzing sound.


The Endangered Species Act


Contact your local ministry office


Often the best source of local information on species at risk is your nearest ministry office. Call with your questions or concerns.