Black Rat Snake

Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta

Copyright, Jennifer Hooks, ecojen@gmail.com

The Black Rat Snake is the largest snake in Virginia, growing up to eight feet long. It is mostly black, with some white showing between its scales. The belly is also white.

Black Rat Snakes are found in forests, fields, marshes, and farmland. In the Spring and Fall, these snakes are very active during the day; in the Summer they are more active at night.

Rat Snakes are skillfull climbers. They will climb high in trees to find prey. They will also hide in old woodpecker holes. Black Rat Snakes are known to climb rafters in barns and similar buildings.

IDNR, Division of Fish and Wildlife

Copyright, Steve Barten

Young Black Rat Snake:

Mark Moran

Female snakes will lay a clutch (batch) of 5 to 30 eggs, each approximately two inches long, in a rotten log, under a rock, or in a pile of dead leaves. The baby snakes are about 12 inches long when they hatch and have a gray and black pattern.

Black Rat Snakes are most vulnerable to predators when they are young. Raccoons, foxes, bobcats, owls, or hawks are common killers of young snakes. A full-grown Black Rat Snake has few predators other than humans. These snakes are often killed on roads.

Copyright, Mike Redmer

Copyright, Zachary Bittner

Black Rat Snakes are powerful constrictors, which means once they catch their prey, they wrap their body around it and squeeze until the animal suffocates. Rat snakes eat birds, eggs, lizards, frogs, other snakes, chipmunks, squirrels, small rabbits, mice, rats, bats (see photo to the left), voles, shrews, and other small mammals.

In the winter, Black Rat Snakes hibernate in a den, often with other species of snakes, such as the Copperhead.

Mark Moran

Like all snake, Black Rat Snakes use their tongues to "taste" the air. This sense organ helps snakes to detect predators or prey.

Additional Media

Description
Type
Credit
Black Rat Snake Flicking Tongue
Video
Mark Moran
Black Rat Snake Climbing Tree
Video
Ahad Khilji
Black Rat Snake Coiling
Video
Phil Heine
Download Quicktime if you are unable to play video

Relationships in Nature:

PREY
PREDATORS
SHELTER
OTHER

Meadow Vole

Raccoon

American Sycamore

Pileated Woodpecker SP

Pileated Woodpecker

Red Fox

Eastern White Pine

Copperhead

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Red-tailed Hawk

Yellow Poplar

Muskrat SP

Eastern Cottontail

Barred Owl

Sweetgum

Great Crested Flycatcher SP

Eastern Chipmunk

American Robin

White Oak

Woodchuck SP

Five-lined Skink

Common Crow

Red Maple

Northern Water Snake

Great Crested Flycatcher

Northern Ringneck Snake

Virginia Pine

Northern Ringneck Snake

Eastern Hognose Snake

Black Willow

Common Crow

Mockernut Hickory

Norway Rat

Poison Ivy

Wood Duck

Virginia Creeper

Bullfrog

Bracken Fern

Earthworm

Silver Maple

Red-winged Blackbird

Loblolly Pine

Wood Frog

Common Reed

Wild Turkey

Cinnamon Fern

American Toad

Willow Oak

Northern Cardinal

Black Locust

Big Brown Bat

Bigtooth Aspen

European Starling

Relationship to Humans:

Black Rat Snakes are extremely beneficial as they eat large amounts of rats, mice, and other pest animals. Farmers always appreciate having snakes around for this reason.

Black Rat Snakes are non-venomous, and are not interested in humans, but they will bite if threatened. People often kill Black Rat Snakes because they fear their large size.

SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION

KINGDOM
Animal
PHYLUM
Chordate
CLASS
Reptile
ORDER
Squamata
FAMILY
Colubridae
GENUS
Elaphe
SPECIES
Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta

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