Species Profile

Blue Racer

Scientific Name: Coluber constrictor foxii
Taxonomy Group: Reptiles
Range: Ontario
Last COSEWIC Assessment: May 2012
Last COSEWIC Designation: Endangered
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered


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Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | Recovery Team | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Blue Racer

Blue Racer Photo 1

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Description

The Blue Racer is a subspecies of the racer. It is a large, long slender snake with a whiplike tail, an elongated head, relatively large eyes, and smooth lustrous scales. The dorsal part of the reptile is a uniform grey, metallic green, or metallic blue, while the ventral parts are bluish-green or whitish. Young Blue Racers have grey or brown blotches on the back. The Blue Racer is one of Ontario’s largest snakes — adults may reach up to 1.5 m in snout-to-vent length. (Snakes are typically measured from the tip of the nose [snout] to the anus [vent], which excludes the tail.)

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Distribution and Population

The racer is wide-ranging in North America, but the Blue Racer subspecies has a distribution limited to south of the Great Lakes from Iowa east to Ohio and north to extreme southwestern Ontario. In Canada, Blue Racers are found only on Pelee Island in southern Ontario. The range of the Blue Racer in Canada has decreased; at one time this snake was more widely distributed on Pelee Island and was found in other areas of southwestern Ontario. In 1995 there were about 205 adult Blue Racers on Pelee Island, with individuals largely restricted to the eastern two thirds of the Island. The number of Blue Racers appears to have declined since then.

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Habitat

During the summer, Blue Racers live in open habitat with abundant cover, such as dense woody and/or herbaceous vegetation, rock outcrops, and hedgerows. Blue Racers hibernate in quarries, in old cisterns, and in areas where limestone bedrock is close to the surface.

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Biology

Blue Racers are active during the day and typically hunt rodents, small birds, and snakes. They in turn are hunted by larger birds of prey, such as the Red-tailed Hawk, the Great Horned Owl, and the Northern Harrier, and by such mammals as raccoons, foxes, and Coyotes. Blue Racers mate during the spring. Females can reproduce annually but more likely do so once every two years. They lay an average clutch of 14 eggs in decaying wood, sawdust piles, rubbish heaps, sandy loam, or under rocks or wood. Nests shared with other Blue Racers or Eastern Fox Snakes have been observed on Pelee Island. Mortality of eggs and young snakes is very high. Blue Racers migrate toward overwintering sites in September and away from them during May and June. It is not known where young Blue Racers hibernate, but individuals three years and older are known to hibernate communally, sometimes sharing denning sites with snakes of other species. When compared with other racer populations in North America the Blue Racers on Pelee Island range over an extremely wide area — the average range is 75 ha for females and 140 ha for males. It may be that because the habitat on Pelee Island is fragmented, snakes have to travel greater distances to obtain the resources they need.

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Threats

Loss of habitat is an important limiting factor for Blue Racers. They inhabit an area that is densely populated by humans, and much of their habitat has been lost to development. Furthermore, Blue Racers appear to be less tolerant of high levels of human activity than other species of snakes. Accidental killing of snakes on the roads and the deliberate killing of snakes by humans are two other significant threats to the continued existence of the subspecies in Canada.

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Protection

Federal Protection

The Blue Racer is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

The Blue Racer and its habitat are protected under regulations connected with Ontario’s Endangered Species Act. It is also listed as "specially protected" under the Ontario Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, which makes it illegal to capture, harass, trade, or kill individuals of the species in Ontario. Conservation authorities and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources protect some areas of suitable Blue Racer habitat.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.

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Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the Blue Racer (Coluber constrictor foxii) in Canada
Status First posting on SAR registry

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Recovery Team

Blue Racer Recovery Team

  • Dawn Burke - Chair/Contact - Government of Ontario
    Phone: 519-873-4624  Fax: 519-873-4645  Send Email
  • Robert Willson - Chair/Contact - Conservation organization (NGO)
    Phone: 519-738-9097  Send Email

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Recovery Progress and Activities

Summary of Progress to Date The Blue Racer recovery team hopes to achieve a minimum of two secure Blue Racer populations in Ontario, which requires increasing the population on Pelee Island to a self-sustaining level and re-establishing at least one population on the Ontario mainland. The feasibility of re-establishing a population in the snake’s former mainland range is being evaluated. Summary of Research/Monitoring Activities Mark-recapture and telemetry studies have been used to map the habitat that Blue Racers currently use on Pelee Island, and analyses have been conducted to better understand the snake’s habitat requirements. These studies, among others, have also been used to identify causes of mortality and threats to the Blue Racer. Blue Racers were surveyed on Pelee Island during 2000-2002. Population monitoring will take place by conducting surveys using consistent methodology. Summary of Recovery Activities The overall approach being taken to stabilize the Pelee Island population of Blue Racers is to protect important habitat and, where possible, restore land to suitable habitat, as well as reduce mortality. The key habitat features that require protection are hibernacula and nesting areas. Because both hibernacula and nesting sites appeared to be limited in number, several artificial sites have been created at suitable locations across the island. Larger scale habitat restoration of prairie and alvar habitats is taking place via prescribed burns to reverse ecological succession and planting native species. Most Blue Racer habitat, however, occurs on private land, and public support is vital for this species’ recovery. Outreach activities include educational presentations, a display at the Pelee Island Heritage Center, a video about Pelee Island’s ecology (including the Blue Racer) shown on the ferry to Pelee Island, and a brochure about Pelee Island’s natural heritage. Conservation organizations have restored several private farmland properties by planting native prairie plants.

Documents

PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

11 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Assessments

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Blue Racer (2013)

    This large snake has an extremely restricted distribution and in Canada, occurs only on Pelee Island in southern Ontario. Despite efforts to protect dwindling habitat, it remains at low numbers. Threats include loss and fragmentation of habitat, increased road mortality and persecution.
  • Response Statements - Blue Racer (2004)

    A response statement is a communications document that identifies how the Minister of the Environment intends to respond to the assessment of a wildlife species by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The document provides a start to the listing and recovery process for those species identified as being at risk, and provides timelines for action to the extent possible.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Blue Racer (Coluber constrictor foxii) in Canada (2017)

    The Minister of Environment and Climate Change is the competent minister under SARA for the Blue Racer and has prepared the federal component of this recovery strategy (Part 1), as per section 37 of SARA. SARA section 44 allows the Minister to adopt all or part of an existing plan for the species if it meets the requirements under SARA for content (sub-sections 41(1) or (2)). The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (now the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry) led the development of the attached recovery strategy for the Blue Racer (Part 2) in cooperation with Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Orders

  • Order Acknowledging Receipt of the Assessments Done Pursuant to Subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act (2004)

    This Order acknowledges receipt by the Governor in Council of the assessments of the status of wildlife species done pursuant to subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The purpose of SARA is to prevent wildlife species from being extirpated or becoming extinct, to provide for the recovery of wildlife species that are extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity and to manage species of special concern to prevent them from becoming endangered or threatened.
  • Order Amending Schedules 1 to 3 to the Species at Risk Act (2005)

    Schedule 1, the List of Wildlife Species at Risk of the Species at Risk Act (SARA), is amended by Order of the Governor in Council (GIC), on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, by the addition of 73 species. This Order is based on scientific assessments by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and follows consultations with provincial and territorial governments, Aboriginal peoples, stakeholders and the public, and analysis of costs and benefits to Canadians.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2011-2012 (2012)

    Under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to “assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species”. COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings in this reporting year (September 1, 2011 to September 30, 2012) from November 21 to 25, 2011 and from April 29 to May 4, 2012. On February 3, 2012, an Emergency Assessment Subcommittee of COSEWIC also assessed the status of the Tri-colored Bat (Perimyotis subflavus), the Little Brown Myotis (Myotis lucifugus), and the Northern Myotis (Myotis septentrionalis). During the current reporting period COSEWIC assessed the status or reviewed the classification of 67 wildlife species. For species already found on Schedule 1 of SARA, the classification of 32 species was reviewed by COSEWIC and the status of the wildlife species was confirmed to be in the same category (extirpated - no longer found in the wild in Canada but occurring elsewhere, endangered, threatened or of special concern). The wildlife species assessment results for the 2011-2012 reporting period include the following: Extinct: 1 Extirpated: 4 Endangered: 29 Threatened: 10 Special Concern: 15 Data Deficient: 2 Not at Risk: 6 Total: 67 Of the 67 wildlife species examined, COSEWIC reviewed the classification of 49 species that had been previously assessed. The review of classification for 26 of those species resulted in a confirmation of the same status as the previous assessment (see Table 1a).

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species Under the Species At Risk Act: March 2004 (2004)

    The Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003 as part of its strategy for the protection of wildlife species at risk. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, hereinafter referred to as the 'SARA list'. Canadians are invited to comment on whether all or some of the species included in this document should be added to the SARA list.
  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act: Terrestrial Species – December 2012 (2013)

    As part of its strategy for protecting wildlife species at risk, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Please submit your comments by March 4, 2013, for terrestrial species undergoing normal consultations and by October 4, 2013, for terrestrial species undergoing extended consultations. Consultation paths.

Recovery Document Posting Plans

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada's Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan (2016)

    Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan identifies the species for which recovery documents will be posted each fiscal year starting in 2014-2015. Posting this three year plan on the Species at Risk Public Registry is intended to provide transparency to partners, stakeholders, and the public about Environment and Climate Change Canada’s plan to develop and post these proposed recovery strategies and management plans. However, both the number of documents and the particular species that are posted in a given year may change slightly due to a variety of circumstances. Last update March 31, 2017