… (including one astounding, but visceral, photo)
There are two kinds of common black snakes found in most of the eastern half of North America: the black rat snake and the black racer. Neither is venomous. The black rat snake is glossy black on top with a blotchy white pattern on the underside.
These are the ones that you find lounging around in trees, barns, and chicken houses where they ambush mice, rats, and other warm-blooded creatures. (Yes, they also like eggs and young chicks.)
Black rat snakes, especially the large ones, tend to be mellow and will often accept gentle handling by humans.
The black racer, or blacksnake, is a duller almost grayish black with a brownish nose and only a small patch of white under the chin.
It has a different personality entirely. It is high strung and crawls amazingly fast. If you do actually catch one, they are usually very defensive. They tend to bite repeatedly and if you persist in holding on you may get a bit scratched and bloody. They are often seen on warm days racing through the thickets and creeks in pursuit of lizards, frogs, and other snakes–which brings me to the reason I’m writing this. Our son Todd called us out to the road during this last warm spell, saying, “You gotta see this!” It was a sad, but amazing road-kill: a freshly squashed black racer revealing three species of snakes that it had just eaten—a worm snake, a garter snake, and a northern water snake.
It reminds me of the time my friend John Connors came upon a black racer that had swallowed something so large it could hardly move. After a bit of gentle prodding the snake disgorged a good-sized copperhead.
I guess a black snake is good to have around!
Pick up my DVD with my story of the snake and the egg at a SALE PRICE!
While we are talking snakes, I might mention my one and only DVD An Evening with Doug Elliott has almost an hour and a half of my favorite “Stories, Songs and Lore Celebrating The Natural World” includes my somewhat famous true story of the snake and the egg. This DVD just won a national Storytelling World award and we are celebrating with a half price sale—only $10 til the end of April 2012. Check out the rest of the selection of books and recordings while you are on my website.
Enjoy the spring season. ~ Doug