RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (ValleyCentral) — If you want to see one of the rarest snakes in the United States, then Sabal Palm Sanctuary nestled on the Rio Grande south of Brownsville is the place to go.

The speckled racer is a dazzlingly beautiful tropical snake that barely edges into southernmost Texas. They appear speckled as they sport an array of yellow to bluish pearl-like spotting that gives them an overall greenish to gleaming black hue depending on how light plays on them.

They are slim, agile diurnal hunters that can disappear in an instant amidst leaf-strewn forest floor. These non-venomous snakes rarely exceed four feet and prey primarily on toads,
frogs, lizards, and other small mammals.

In addition to keen eyesight, they utilize a strong sense of smell to facilitate hunting. They prefer living close to a water source, where one of their favorite targets is leopard frogs. On a sanctuary pond, the resident ribbon snake is stalking frogs, and maybe that is why this one is hiding beneath a lily pad with only its eyes peering above the surface.

While a mature racer probably doesn’t have much to fear from a similarly sized ribbon snake, a big indigo poses a serious threat.

Racers can live some 10 years in captivity, but a lifespan of five is more likely in the wild, as they are preyed upon by other snakes, birds, bobcats, and coyotes.

With the appearance of an indigo, the racer slips soundlessly into the scattered palm fronds littering the forest floor. On warm days, it is possible to spot several of these exotic snakes as you stroll pathways thru the sanctuary.

However, racers are a threatened species in the state and are to be admired and not handled. What a beautiful addition these speckled racers are to the unique wildlife of the Rio Grande Valley.