Coluber constrictor mormon - Western Yellow-bellied Racer
Considered harmless to humans.
Adults are 20-75 inches long (51-190 cm), typically under 3 feet long. Hatchlings are 8 - 11 inches long.
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.
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.
Eats lizards, small mammals, birds, eggs, snakes, small turtles and frogs, and large insects.
Lays eggs in early summer.
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.
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.
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."