The determination of a Southern Black Racer

Southern Black Racer


My plan on Monday morning was to head out for more coastal photography, and to be honest; it has been a nice change from sneakers to flip flops. I have enjoyed traveling to Dunedin and Tarpon Springs and surrounding areas for my coastal systems field assignments as well as photographing different habitats. I admit I do love the feeling of the sand falling in between my toes and the cool water refreshing my feet.

Just as I was turning onto US 19, my inner nature self said…. Nope let’s head over to Brooksville to see what’s happening there. 

I took a small hike at Big Pine Tract and then ventured to Smith’s Prairie (County RD 480 W-Croom Road). A part of Forest Road 7, vehicles that aren’t 4WD can access that road (limestone). However, if you cross over the Good Neighbor Trail, some areas of the limestone road are steep, so be cautious if you take that drive, especially after a good rainfall.

Southern Black Racer | Alice Mary Herden | August 2020

Southern Black Racer | Alice Mary Herden | August 2020

Being in the right place at the right time will always be the motto. Wildlife will travel wherever and whenever, and today was that day, our paths crossed.

I knew snakes slithered up trees, and usually, I would see snakes already curled up around the branches or peeking out of holes, but I never actually saw one attempt it, and here’s where I was at the right place at the right time.

It was quite intriguing and very scary as well, watching this snake attempt to slither up a pine tree. The snake would stop and look at me, wondering what I was doing and maybe thinking- Stop looking at me, you are making me nervous. 

It was definitely tracking a scent and very determined to get to whatever it was. It already fell once, just a couple of feet into its climb. Flakes of bark were falling as it slithered and wrapped its body moving up the tree. 

It got to about 20-25 feet (I am guessing, it was high up there) when it almost fell again. The only thing saving it from falling was the grip the lower half of its body had around the tree. I believe the snake realized that it might be too much of a risk to continue further, and if it did fall, it would be detrimental, causing massive internal injury or even death. The snake then began its descent safely back to ground level.

Indeed it was a great experience to watch this snake’s determination and skill. The snake’s ability to navigate and follow a scent just using its tongue shows how intricate the snake’s sense of smell is. And to get to a point where it knew it was time to turn around may show that snakes are not risk-takers.


I took 630 photos of this snake’s attempt to reach the top of the pine tree, and here is the link to the gallery:

Remember, always keep your distance when photographing snakes. I was shooting with a Canon 400mm lens, so I had some distance. If anything would have happened, a different snake came around, or a hawk was eyeing it up, there was a safe distance from me and the snake.

It’s also a good idea to know the difference between a venomous and nonvenomous snake. 

I often see deceased snakes on these limestone roads. I know some people may not have seen them in time to stop and let them pass, but there are times when people will just run them over just because it’s a snake. Don’t do that, don’t be that person, just let it cross the road and live its life out peacefully.  

About a snakes tongue:

As a snake flickers its tongue, it collects moisture-borne odor particles floating through the air and particles left on a surface. Once those particles are collected, the snake tongue protrudes into the vomeronasal organ or Jacobson’s organ. This organ is part of the olfactory system (smell) in reptiles. It possibly can tell if that scent is prey or predator. 


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