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A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California


Western Yellow-bellied Racer - Coluber constrictor mormon

Baird and Girard, 1852

= Coluber mormon - Western Yellow-bellied Racer
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Range in California: Red




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western yellow-bellied racer
Adult, Siskiyou County
western yellow-bellied racer western yellow-bellied racer western yellow-bellied racer western yellow-bellied racer
  Adult, Yuba County   Adult, Sonoma County
western yellow-bellied racer western yellow-bellied racer western yellow-bellied racer western yellow-bellied racer
Adult, Tule Lake, Siskiyou County Adult, San Mateo County Adult, Marin County
western yellow-bellied racer western yellow-bellied racer western yellow-bellied racer western yellow-bellied racer
  Adult, in shedding phase, Sutter County  
western yellow-bellied racer
western yellow-bellied racer
western yellow-bellied racer western yellow-bellied racer
Adult, San Mateo County Adult, Lassen County © Loren Prins Adult, Lassen County  © Debbie Frost
western yellow-bellied racer western yellow-bellied racer western yellow-bellied racer western yellow-bellied racer
Adult, El Dorado County. © Richard Porter Adult with reddish coloring, El Dorado County. © Richard Porter Adult, San Luis Obispo County
© Andrew Harmer
western yellow-bellied racer western yellow-bellied racer western yellow-bellied racer
Adult, Santa Cruz Island © Ken Owen
Channel Islands Restoration
Adult, Santa Cruz Island © Luke Caldwell Adult, Tulare County © Patrick Briggs Adult, Yolo County.  Dave Feliz
western yellow-bellied racer western yellow-bellied racer western yellow-bellied racer western yellow-bellied racer
Adult, Yakima County, Washington Adult, Orange County © Nicholas Hess
western yellow-bellied racer western yellow-bellied racer western yellow-bellied racer western yellow-bellied racer
Adult, Del Norte County.
© Alan D. Barron
Adult, Solano County © Lou Silva Adult crossing a road in late afternoon, Modoc Plateau, Siskiyou County

western yellow-bellied racer tracks western yellow-bellied racer    
Western Yellow-bellied Racer tracks, Sutter County

Adult Western Yellow-bellied Racers are typically about 3 feet in length. This one is just shy of four feet long.
© Richard Porter
   
       
Juveniles
western yellow-bellied racer western yellow-bellied racer western yellow-bellied racer western yellow-bellied racer
Juvenile, Modoc County Juvenile, San Mateo County
western yellow-bellied racer western yellow-bellied racer western yellow-bellied racer western yellow-bellied racer
Juvenile, Contra Costa County Juvenile, San Mateo County
western yellow-bellied racer
western yellow-bellied racer
western yellow-bellied racer western yellow-bellied racer
Juvenile, San Mateo County Juvenile, Del Norte County.
© Alan D. Barron
western yellow-bellied racer western yellow-bellied racer western yellow-bellied racer  
Juvenile, Butte County
© Jackson Shedd

Juvenile, Butte County
© Rodney Lacey
Juvenile, Kern County
© Brad Alexander
 
Breeding Behavior
western yellow-bellied racer western yellow-bellied racer    
A pair of breeding  adult racers in a Contra Costa County back yard. © Cheryl Haga

   
Habitat
western yellow-bellied racer habitat western yellow-bellied racer habitat western yellow-bellied racer habitat western yellow-bellied racer habitat
Habitat, Modoc County
Great Basin desert
Habitat, Marin County grasslands Habitat, San Mateo County riparian Habitat, Tuolumne County mountains
coluber habitat western yellow-bellied racer habitat western yellow-bellied racer habitat western yellow-bellied racer habitat
Habitat, 4,100 ft. Siskiyou County


Habitat, Glenn County,
Sacramento Valley
Habitat, Sutter County agricultural fields Vernal pools grasslands habitat,
Butte County © Rodney Lacey
Short Videos
western yellow-bellied racer video western yellow-bellied racer video western yellow-bellied racer video  
A large adult racer in bad need of a shed on the crawl in the Sacramento Valley. A little blotched juvenile racer strikes and crawls away defensively in the Modoc County Great Basin Desert. A juvenile racer found under a rock in late January in Contra Costa County.  
Description

Not Dangerous to Humans
Size
Adults are 20-75 inches long (51-190 cm), typically under 3 feet long. Hatchlings are 8 - 11 inches long.
Appearance
Slender with large eyes, a broad head and a slender neck, smooth scales, and a long thin tail. Plain brown, blue-grey, or olive-green to green above and unmarked off-white or yellowish below. Young with dark blotches on sides and saddled markings on the back. At one time juveniles were thought to be a different species from the adults due to the difference in appearance.
Behavior
Active in daylight. Mainly terrestrial, but also a good climber. Moves very quickly. Hunts crawling with head held high off the ground, sometimes moving it from side to side. Prey is killed by being quickly overcome and captured, crushed with the jaws or trapped under the body, and swallowed alive. Despite the species name, it is not a constrictor. Often bites agressively. Can be found at denning sites along with other species of snakes.
Diet
Eats lizards, small mammals, birds, eggs, snakes, small turtles and frogs, and large insects.
Reproduction
Lays eggs in early summer.
Range
This subspecies, Coluber constrictor mormon - Western Yellow-bellied Racer, is found throughout most of california north and west of the Sierras, and south along the coast to the Baja California border, from sea level to around 7,000 ft. elevation. It is also found on Santa Cruz Island.

Outside of California the subspecies continues north through Oregon and eastern Washington into British Columbia, Canada, and east through parts of Idaho, Montana, and Utah into western Colorado, with some isolated populations in eastern Arizona and northwestern New Mexico.

The species Coluber constrictor - North American Racer, is very wide-ranging, occuring from the Pacific Coast all the way south to Guatemala and east to the Atlantic coast.
Habitat
Prefers open areas with sunny exposure - meadows, grassland, sagebrush flats, brushy chaparral, woodlands, riparian areas such as pond edges, and forest openings. Found in arid and moist habitats, but not usually found in deserts or high mountains.
Taxonomic Notes
Coluber constrictor consists of 11 subspecies, but some herpetologists consider C. c. mormon to be a full species, Coluber mormon.

According to the SSAR list "Burbrink et al. (in rev.) have demonstrated using mtDNA that C. constrictor may be composed of six independently evolving lineages not concordant with most recognized subspecies."
Conservation Issues  (Conservation Status)
Common and abundant in much of its range, but absent from some areas along the south coast.

Taxonomy
Family Colubridae Colubrids Oppel, 1811
Genus Coluber North American Racers, Coachwhips and Whipsnakes Linnaeus, 1758
Species constrictor North American Racer Linnaeus, 1758
Subspecies


mormon Western Yellow-bellied Racer Baird and Girard, 1852
Original Description
Coluber mormon - Baird and Girard, 1852 - Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia, Vol. 6, p. 70

from Original Description Citations for the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America © Ellin Beltz
Meaning of the Scientific Name
Coluber - Latin - coluber snake or serpent
constrictor
- Latin - one that constricts - misnomer, genus does not constrict
mormon - Mormon - "found by Capt. Howard Stansbury's party, in the valley of the Great Salt Lake" settled by Mormon religionists

from Scientific and Common Names of the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America - Explained © Ellin Beltz

Alternate Names

Western Racer
Western Yellowbelly Racer
Mormon Racer
Coluber mormon
(full species)

Related or Similar California Snakes
M. f. ruddocki - San Joaquin Coachwhip
M. f. piceus - Red Coachwhip
P. c. annectens - San Diego Gophersnake
P. c. catenifer - Pacific Gophersnake
M. l. lateralis - California Striped Racer
M. l. euryxanthus - Alameda Striped Racer

More Information and References
California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Stebbins, Robert C., and McGinnis, Samuel M.  Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of California: Revised Edition (California Natural History Guides) University of California Press, 2012.

Stebbins, Robert C. California Amphibians and Reptiles. The University of California Press, 1972.

Stebbins, Robert C. A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians. 3rd Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003.

Behler, John L., and F. Wayne King. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. Alfred A. Knopf, 1992.

Powell, Robert., Joseph T. Collins, and Errol D. Hooper Jr. A Key to Amphibians and Reptiles of the Continental United States and Canada. The University Press of Kansas, 1998.

Bartlett, R. D. & Patricia P. Bartlett. Guide and Reference to the Snakes of Western North America (North of Mexico) and Hawaii. University Press of Florida, 2009.

Bartlett, R. D. & Alan Tennant. Snakes of North America - Western Region. Gulf Publishing Co., 2000.

Brown, Philip R. A Field Guide to Snakes of California. Gulf Publishing Co., 1997.

Ernst, Carl H., Evelyn M. Ernst, & Robert M. Corker. Snakes of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press, 2003.

Wright, Albert Hazen & Anna Allen Wright. Handbook of Snakes of the United States and Canada. Cornell University Press.

Conservation Status

The following status listings come from the Special Animals List and the Endangered and Threatened Animals List which are published by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.


This snake is not included on the Special Animals List, which indicates that there are no significant conservation concerns for it in California.


Organization
Status Listing
U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) None
California Endangered Species Act (CESA) None
California Department of Fish and Wildlife None
Bureau of Land Management None
USDA Forest Service None

 

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