The Ferocious Black Snake of New England

I came upon a curious post, from 1831–a report of a ferocious reptile that existed in New England at that time. The Exeter News Letter of 1831 states that this reptile, “which is said to attain a larger size than any other in New-England. They have not infrequently been known to measure between six and seven feet in length; and may be found in abundance in the pastures of New-Hampshire in the months of April and May, when they emerge from their dens, and court the rays of the noon-day sun.

They may then be killed with but little trouble, being somewhat torpid, and sluggish in their motions.  They afterwards become more active and shy; and if seen in the summer months become instantly alarmed, and glide away with the velocity of a race-horse.  They are generally considered harmless; and it is ascertained that their bite is not venomous; instances have been known, however, of their having attacked individuals without provocation, and they have then proved themselves a fearless enemy.”

Reportedly, a man [Mr. N. from Massachusetts] traveling from Lynn MA to Lynnfield MA…  “Pursuing the shortest route, his path for several miles lay through the sterile pastures, hills and woods… He was walking leisurely along, when his attention was attracted to the rustling among the bushes near him, and two monstrous black snakes, which he stated to have been seven or eight feet in length, made their appearance, rushing towards him, thrusting out their forked tongues, while their eye-balls seemed glowing with defiance and ire. Having no means of defence, and being aware that “the better part of valor is discretion,” Mr. N. turned and fled from his enemies as fast as his legs would carry him. His pursuers, however, soon came up with him, and one of them clinging to his boot, arrested his father progress. The snake twined itself around his left leg, with its head reaching above his knee–and seemed evidently attempting to gain his body, for the purpose of compressing him to death. In this critical situation, Mr. N. fortunately retained his self-possession, and drew a penknife from his pocket, with which he severed the body of his loathsome antagonist. Its companion escaped..”

I was completely confounded by this article.  The only snake which seems to match this description, even remotely, is the Northern black racer.   Some people contend that racers chased or terrorized them. (I picture frightened tourists running through the New Hampshire woods with these snakes close behind them).

A racer’s actual speed is about 6.5 kilometers per hour (4 mph), or about the rate of a person’s brisk walk.  So, it is technically possible for this snake to pursue someone, but is it probable?

Feel free to share your stories! Has a snake ever chased you? 😀  😀


*Additional Reading*

Animal Diversity Web: columber constrictor

-New Hampshire’s “Lakawaka”: Terror of the Isles of Shoals-

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