Maine’s large black snakes are on the endangered species list


One day I was walking through the woods and kicked what I thought was a big stick.

This stick turned out to be a big black snake. I don’t know who was more surprised, me or the snake as it quickly moved away. It went over my boots and gave me this weird feeling that it might be going up my leg, but it’s not.

The myth about snakes is that they are all evil. They are not bad, nor are they all poisonous. On the contrary, snakes have a very important role in our ecosystem. According to Maine.gov, snakes “feed on rodents, insects, reptiles, and amphibians” and serve “as a food source for predatory birds and mammals.”

Maine’s largest snake

Black Racers are an endangered species, and as biologists recognize that snakes are notoriously misunderstood, they serve a purpose in our world.

Black runners are Maine’s largest snake, measuring up to 5 feet long. It’s as long as a small human, and it can be scary if you come across one in the woods. Black runners look just like you imagine. They are long, smooth and very black, with a white chin and a gray belly.

The good news is that of Maine’s nine varieties of snakes, none of them are venomous, according to Maine.gov. Why then are they in danger? People kill snakes out of fear, whether they are poisonous or not. If enough are killed, then the species becomes endangered. That’s what happened to the Black Racers.

cornered runner

Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Action Plan, conducted in 2015, studied the habitat of the black racer. These snakes prefer young forest and “shrubby habitat”, which is not easily found in the Maine environment.

The researchers found that most of the black racer population is found in the Wells Barrens, a reserve made up of mostly shrubland and grassland. You can read more on Nature.org about the reserve and the black racers.

So think twice before killing a snake in Maine and see what you can learn from this “creeping relic of our past,” as Maine.gov explains.

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