Discover the Largest Black Racer Snake Ever Recorded

largest black racer snake
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Written by Cindy Rasmussen

Updated: August 28, 2023

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Black racer snakes are known to be fast, with some reaching speeds of 8-10 mph, which is a pretty good clip, especially for a snake. They are also large snakes with an average length of 3-5 feet. Black racers look similar to various other black snakes, but they are skinnier snakes about the size of a garden hose.

Rat snakes and racers are often mixed up because of their similar looks, but racers are thinner, not quite as long, and have bigger eyes. The scales of a black racer have a smooth matted look, while the rat snake has a glossy textured look.

Racer snakes are a bit shorter than rat snakes, but they are still large snakes, so just how big is the largest black racer snake ever recorded?

How Large are Black Racer Snakes?

Snakes That Look Like Copperheads-Black Racer Snake

Black racer snakes are really fast snakes, and they can get pretty long too!

©Breck P. Kent/Shutterstock.com

Black racer snakes average 3-5 feet in length. They are not thick-bodied snakes and only weigh about 1 ¼ pounds. They have long skinny bodies, with their heads about the same width as the rest of their body, like a long jump rope. Their tail tapers off to a point, getting skinnier as it goes. Black racers are smaller than black rat snakes.

Rat snakes and racers are often mixed up because of their similar looks, but racers are thinner, not quite as long, and have bigger eyes.

Where Do Black Racer Snakes Live?

racer snake curled up on ground

Northern black racers and southern black racers live in the eastern United States from Maine down to Florida.

©Psychotic Nature/Shutterstock.com

There are two kinds of black racers in the United States; the northern black racer and the southern black racer. They live in the eastern United States, with the southern part of Maine being the northern edge of their habitat and all the way down to the Florida Keys.

They prefer to live in fields, pastures, scrubby and sandy landscapes, and along the edges of forests. Southern black racers are good climbers and can be found in trees and (disturbingly) on top of houses and garages! They can be found in suburban backyards.

These snakes swim a lot and don’t typically venture too far away from bodies of water. They also spend plenty of time underground, beneath thickets, debris, leaves, and brush. They hide away in their underground dens in October to brumate during the cold season, then come back out to breed in spring.

Are Black Racers Venomous?

No, black racers are not venomous. They do not have any venom that is harmful to humans. Although they are not venomous, they can bite, and it will be painful. Instead of using venom to kill their prey, they leap on top of their prey and hold them down until they die. They also do not tolerate being held and can emit a foul smell if threatened.

What is the Lifespan of a Black Racer?

During brumation, black racers remain inactive but not completely asleep and begin migrating to their winter dens by late October. They choose the same den year after year and may share it with other species of snakes. As breeding season begins in late March, these snakes become more territorial and defensive as they take part in mating rituals.

The female will lay a clutch of 3-32 eggs between June and July, which have a granular texture compared to those of other snake species. These eggs can be hidden under logs or burrows within leaf litter or sand or even left in communal nests.

It takes 1-2 years for males to mature and 2-3 years for females before they reach full adulthood. Black racer snakes have lifespans reaching up to 10 years old when living in the wild.

How Big is the Largest Black Racer Snake Ever Recorded?

a southern black racer on the side of the road

The largest black racer snake ever recorded was 73 inches long, which is a tad longer than 6 feet!

©Perry Correll/Shutterstock.com

According to the Virginia Herpetological Society, the largest black racer ever was 73 inches (6.08 feet). Most doorways are 7 feet tall, so it measured just a foot shorter than that. That is a large snake!

How Does That Compare to Other Snakes?

What Do Anacondas Eat - Pet Anaconda

Green anacondas are the largest snakes in the world and can be around 30 feet long!

©Holger Kirk/Shutterstock.com

Here is a list of some of the largest snakes in the world:

  1. Green Anaconda: 30 feet
  2. Reticulated Python: 29 feet
  3. Amethystine Python: 27 feet
  4. Burmese Python: 23 feet
  5. Indian Python: 20 feet
  6. African Rock Python: 16 feet
  7. Black Mamba: 14 feet
  8. Boa Constrictor: 13 feet
  9. King Cobra: 13 feet
  10. King Brown Snake: 11 feet

What is the Largest Snake in America?

Eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon couperi) lyin in grass. The Eastern Indigo Snake is the longest snake in America.

The eastern indigo snake is the longest snake in America.

©Patrick K. Campbell/Shutterstock.com

The largest native snake in America is the eastern indigo snake, which can get to be 8 ½ feet long and weigh 11 pounds. These snakes look similar to black racers but have much heavier bodies.

The largest non-native snake (invasive, not originally from the region) is the green anaconda and Burmese python. There have only been a couple of green anacondas found in the Everglades of Florida, but there is a large population of tens of thousands of Burmese pythons.

What Kind of “Large Black Snakes” Have People Found in the US?

If you search “man finds large black snake” or “a woman finds large black snake”, you will get days’ worth of interesting reading.

  • April 2019: A man in Gaston, North Carolina, found a large black snake on his property that he estimated was 12-14 feet long! Not wanting it to cause trouble later, he killed it and posted a picture on social media. Most people thought it was a really big black rat snake since most only get to be 5-7 feet long.
  • July 2021: A man expecting his DoorDash lunch got more than that when he went to grab his lunch order off his porch. Jeff Irvine from Brandermill, Virginia, was startled to see a large black rat snake wrapped around his doorknob! He assumed the DoorDash delivery person didn’t see it because she calmly dropped the food and left. Jeff said he had seen a large black snake inside his house in September of 2020, so maybe this was the same snake back for more company. He let the snake slither off on its own.
  • July 2020: A woman was a bit surprised to find a large black snake in her laundry room, just hanging out. The snake was on a shelf above the washing machine in her Flushing, Ohio home. After calling authorities, members of the Sheriff’s Office’s Dangerous Wild Animal Response Team came out to remove the snake. It was identified as a rat snake and was four feet long. Rat snakes are the largest snakes in Ohio, larger than black racers.

What Should You Do if You Find a Black Racer Snake?

If you would like to see if your find beats the record of the longest black racer snake ever recorded, you could call authorities to have it removed and recorded. Coming across a snake in the wild, you should back away slowly and give it some space.

If you are lucky to see one from a distance, you will get to watch its unique mode of hunting called “periscoping,” where it glides along with its head held high above the ground, like a periscope. Snakes have a keen sense of sight, and they scan the area for prey.

When they see a frog, lizard, small bird, or another snake, they will pounce on it and hold it to the ground until they can swallow it whole. They are not picky eaters, which helps when you are a six-foot-long snake!

Black Racer vs. Cottonmouth: Who Would Win?

Black Racer vs Cottonmouth

It’s difficult to say definitively who would win in a fight between a Black Racer and a Cottonmouth, as it would depend on a variety of factors such as their size, age, and individual characteristics. However, in general, Cottonmouths are venomous and have a potent bite, while Black Racers are non-venomous and rely on speed and agility to catch their prey.

If the Black Racer could avoid being bitten by the Cottonmouth and could deliver a fatal bite of its own, it might have a chance at winning the fight. Ultimately, though, it’s impossible to predict the outcome of a hypothetical encounter between these two species.

Other Record-Breaking Snakes

The Guinness Book of World Records documents that the biggest bushmaster snake ever recorded measured 3.65 m (11.98 feet) in length. To put it in perspective, a queen-sized bed is 6 ½ feet long, which means if this snake were to sleep on the bed, almost half of its body would be hanging off the bed.

Bushmasters are highly poisonous and their bites can be fatal to humans. Researchers are actively searching for a more effective antivenom that can specifically target the venom of the bushmaster snake. The venom of this snake is a combination of hemorrhagic elements that prevent blood from clotting and neurotoxic elements that affect the nervous system.

Symptoms of a bite include pain and swelling at the site of the bite, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and profuse sweating.

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About the Author

I'm a Wildlife Conservation Author and Journalist, raising awareness about conservation by teaching others about the amazing animals we share the planet with. I graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris with a degree in Elementary Education and I am a former teacher. When I am not writing I love going to my kids' soccer games, watching movies, taking on DIY projects and running with our giant Labradoodle "Tango".

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