Lee Richardson Zoo

Yellow Bellied Racer

Order – Squamata – snakes and lizards
Suborder – Serpentes - snakes

Family – Colubridae – nonvenomous, egg-laying snakes

Scientific Name: Coluber constrictor


Description:  Adult length is 23-50 inches.  Adult racers have a uniform cream or yellow belly with no pattern, and a uniform blue-gray, greenish-blue, or brown body.  Juveniles have a pattern of large, light-edged blotches on the back alternating with smaller spots on the sides.  The scales are smooth, and racers have a divided anal scale.  Males have slightly longer tails than females, and females grow slightly larger than males.


Home Range:  Most of the continental US with the exception of the Southwest from W. Texas to Southern California, and parts of the northern Midwest.


Habitat Type:  Open grassland, pasture, and prairie during the summer, but they move to rocky, wooded hillsides in the spring and fall.  They hibernate in the crevices of hillsides during the winter.


Reproductive Habits:  The breeding season for this species is in May.  During courtship, the male positions himself alongside the female and ripples his body spasmodically as he positions his cloaca beneath her tail.  While copulating, the female may move, dragging the male with her.  The female lays a clutch of eggs from mid-June through early August.  She will lay anywhere from 5-31 eggs.  Usually, one or several snakes may lay their eggs in the burrows of small mammals. 


Diet in Wild:  Insects, frogs, lizards, other snakes, birds, bird eggs, and small mammals.


Diet in Zoo:  3 crickets on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  2 pinky (baby) mice on Sunday.


General Info:  Aptly named, this is one of the fastest snakes in Kansas.  It uses its keen eyesight to track and pursue prey.  When threatened, racers will try to distract a predator’s attention by thrashing vigorously in one spot.  As soon as the predator’s attention is diverted to that spot, the racer will quickly slip away into the brush or beneath a rock.  The racer is diurnal and will spend its days basking on rocks or gliding over the prairie in search of food. 


Predators:  Mainly hawks and small mammals.



Amphibians and Reptiles in Kansas. Third Edition. 1993. Joseph T. Collins. University of Kansas Press. Lawrence, KS.  Pp. 205-207.


Peterson Field Guides:  Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern/Central North America.  Third Edition. 1991.  Roger Conant et al.  Houghton Mifflin Company. Boston.  P. 596.