I was walking through the woods one day, and kicked what I thought was a large stick.

That stick turned out to be a large black snake.  I don't know who was more startled, me or the snake as it slithered away quickly.  It did pass over my boots and gave me that eerie feeling it might crawl up my leg, but it didn't.

The myth about snakes is that they are all bad.  They are not bad, nor are they all venomous.  Rather, snakes have a very important role in our ecosystem. According to Maine.gov, snakes "prey 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, snakes are notoriously misunderstood and serve a purpose in our world.

Black Racers are the largest snake in Maine, growing up to 5 feet long.  That's as long as a short human, and can be scary if you happen upon one in the woods.  Black Racers look like what you'd imagine.  They are long, sleek, and very black, with a white chin and gray underbelly.

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

Cornered Racer
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Maine's Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife Action Plan, conducted in 2015, studied the habitat of the Black Racer.  These snakes prefer a young forest and "shrubland habitat", which is not easy to find in Maine's environment.

Researchers found most of the Black Racer population is at the Wells Barrens, a preserve which is predominately shrubs and grasslands.  You can learn more at Nature.org about the preserve and Black Racer snakes.

So think twice before you kill a snake in Maine, and look at what you can learn from this "slithering relic of our past", as Maine.gov explains.

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