The blue racer (Coluber constrictor foxii), 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 up to 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.
View an interactive map of the known ranges of blue racers in Ontario.
Blue racers breed in the spring. Females lay approximately 15 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 29 centimetres in length. This species reaches maturity in one to two years and can live for more than 10 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 and Protections
The blue racer is currently listed as Endangered under both the Ontario Endangered Species Act, 2007 and 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 some protection to individuals and their habitat. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has not yet assessed the global status of the blue racer, but lists the eastern racer (of which the blue racer is a subspecies) as Least Concern. The eastern racer’s status was last confirmed in May 2012.
Learn more about reptile and amphibian conservation and what you can do to help these species on our Reptile and Amphibian Stewardship page.
What You Can Do
- Report a sighting
- Get involved in reptile and amphibian conservation on your property, on the road and in your community
- Donate to support reptile and amphibian conservation
- Watch for reptiles and amphibians on the road
- Don’t release pet reptiles and amphibians into the wild
- Read more about the blue racer in the Ontario Reptile and Amphibians Atlas publication.