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Rat Snake (Elaphe obsoleta)



Rat Snake (Elaphe obsoleta)
Order: Squamata, Family: Colubridae

The rat snake varies in color from almost solid black to brown, green or yellow and may have stripes or blotches. The snake's coloration tends to reflect its environment. Rat snakes grow to about 3 to 8 feet in length. They have round pupils.



I. DESCRIPTION:
  • The rat snake varies in color from almost solid black to brown, green or yellow and may have stripes or blotches. The snake's coloration tends to reflect its environment.
  • Rat snakes grow to about 3 to 8 feet in length.
  • They have round pupils.
II. GEOGRAPHICAL RANGE AND HABITAT:
  • Rat snakes can be found throughout southwestern and eastern Asia, including China, Japan and the Philippines. They also inhabit North America, east of the Rockies and Mexico, and are present in Europe as far north as southern Germany and Poland.
  • They prefer grassy areas, cultivated fields and farms.
III. DIET:
  • Adult rat snakes eat small mammals (rats and mice), small birds (young chickens, nestling wild birds) and eggs. Young often feed on other snakes, lizards and small frogs.
IV. LIFE CYCLE/SOCIAL STRUCTURE:
  • Mostly arboreal, the rat snake also spends a fair amount of time on the ground.
  • It is normally slow and docile.
  • Rat snakes kill active prey by constriction, but they eat smaller and less active prey alive.
  • The rat snake swallows eggs whole, either crushing them on the way down or digesting them whole.
  • When threatened, the rat snake vibrates its tail, hisses and lunges. When captured, it may eject feces and a foul-smelling liquid.
  • Rat snakes attain sexual maturity at 2 to 4 years of age.
  • In early summer, the female rat snake lays between 12 and 16 eggs, which hatch four to eight weeks later.
  • Hatchlings measure 7 to 12 inches in length; some species are colored differently than adults (dark gray with dark blotches), attaining their adult coloration at about 3 years of age.
  • Rat snakes hibernate; however, the length of hibernation varies with climate.
V. SPECIAL NOTES/ADAPTATIONS:
  • The rat snake has bones on each side of its jaw that are mobile and dispensable.
  • The snake's flat belly meets the sides of its body at right angles, providing a ridge that runs along the base of each flank that can be pressed into bark crevices to aid in climbing.
VI. ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT:
  • Rat snakes help keep rodent populations in check.
VII. MORE RAT SNAKE FACTS:
  • Rat snakes belong to the colubrid family, which comprises common, usually harmless snakes found on all continents except Australia. The colubrid family includes gopher, king and garter snakes, as well as racers and other snakes.
  • The rat snake has only one lung.
  • There are over 50 species of rat snake.
  • Rat snakes form a transition between terrestrial and arboreal colubrids.



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