(Coluber constrictor foxii)
Other names: none
The blue racer, the second-largest snake species in Ontario, is pale blue or bluish green with a white or bluish belly. Its dorsal scales are smooth and it has a divided anal plate. Individuals can grow to almost two metres in length.
This species is the only large, bluish snake in Ontario. The smooth greensnake, however, often turns bluish after death.
Typically a grassland species, the blue racer inhabits fields and open woodlands.
Blue racers breed in the spring. Females lay from five to 28 leathery eggs under rocks, in rotting logs or underground in animal burrows. Sometimes females nest communally. The eggs hatch in late summer, and the young are 20 to 30 centimetres in length. This species reaches maturity in two to three years and can live for more than 20 years.
As its name suggests, the racer is a very fast snake and can move at a speed of almost seven kilometres an hour. People usually catch only a glimpse of this species as it disappears quickly through tall grass or other vegetation. The racer eats insects, frogs, other snakes, small rodents and birds. Despite its scientific name, it is not a constrictor. In some areas, racers hibernate in groups as large as 100, but in others they overwinter in smaller groups of 10 to 15 individuals.
Threats and Trends
Habitat loss on Pelee Island due to conversion of land to agricultural use has been the largest threat to the Canadian blue racer population. Fortunately, much of the prime habitat for this species on the island is now protected by provincial nature reserves and land trusts. Road mortality and human persecution, as well as development, also threaten this small population.
Current Status & Protections
The blue racer is currently listed as Endangered under the Ontario Endangered Species Act, 2007 and Endangered under the federal Species at Risk Act. The species has also been designated as a Specially Protected Reptile under the Ontario Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act. These acts offer protection to individuals and their habitat. The habitat of this species is further protected in Ontario by the Provincial Policy Statement under the Planning Act. The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the global status of the blue racer as Least Concern. The species’ status was last confirmed in January 2010. Additional detail about legal protection for species at risk in Ontario is available on our Legal Protection page.
Learn more about reptile and amphibian conservation and what you can do to help these species on our Reptile and Amphibian Stewardship page.
Ontario range (click to enlarge)
Although the blue racer once occurred on the Ontario mainland, its Canadian distribution is now limited to Pelee Island. The species occurs south of the Great Lakes in Ohio and west to Iowa.