Species and Plant Community
Accounts for Identified Wildlife

Table of contents

YELLOW-BELLIED RACER (Coluber constrictor)

Status

The yellow-bellied racer is BLUE-listed. In B.C., the main threat to this species is habitat loss due to human development. Populations are seasonally concentrated at den sites, causing this species to be susceptible to disturbance and local extirpation. Further, juveniles have a blotched pattern and are sometimes mistaken for small rattlesnakes, and killed.

Ecology

The yellow-bellied racer occurs within open or sparsely treed habitats throughout its range in the Pacific Northwest. In B.C., it occurs within the dry low to mid elevation grasslands of the south central interior. During the winter (November through March) it hibernates in dens that may be located in forested areas. Dens are usually found in rock outcrops or talus slopes. This species will often den communally with rattlesnakes, gopher snakes and garter snakes. Snakes emerge in late March and April and disperse before mating in May. Racers have been reported to disperse up to 1.8 km from the den. During the summer, they tend not to range far (<100 m); however, gravid females may make larger journeys (>500 m) to nesting sites in July. Nest sites are usually found on south facing slopes in either talus or sand substrates and are often located in abandoned mammal burrows or below the surface in stable rock. In the south Okanagan, nest sites were found near the crest of a sandy hill, with little surrounding vegetation. Nest sites may be used for several consecutive years. Eggs are laid in July and the young hatch in August. Snakes will return to dens toward October.

Distribution

This species is found from the dry central interior of B.C., west of the Rocky Mountains, south to California.

Ecoprovince: Ecosections

Biogeoclimatic units

Habitat requirements

Broad ecosystem units


Structural stage

1: non-vegetated/sparse
2: herb
3: shrub/herb


Critical habitats and habitat features

Rock outcrops and talus slopes are used all season for basking and cover, and may be used as dens or possibly nest sites. Den sites are often used in consecutive years and likely provide special conditions that are not common throughout the habitat. Den sites are limited in number and may contain an entire population of snakes during winter months.

Selected references

Brown, W.S. and W.S. Parker. 1976. Movement ecology of Coluber constrictor near
communal hibernacula. Copeia 1976(2):225-242.

Campbell, C.A. 1991. Status Report on the Yellow-bellied racer, Coluber constrictor
mormon, in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, Ottawa, ON. McCartney, J.M. 1985. The ecology of the Northern Pacific Rattlesnake, Crotalus
viridis oreganus, in British Columbia. MSc thesis, Univ. Vict., Victoria, B.C.

Sarell, M.J. 1993. Snake hibernacula in the South Okanagan. Unpublished report for B.C. Min. Environ., Lands and Parks, Penticton, B.C.


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