Western/Black Rat Snake

Black/Western Rat Snake Pantherophis obsoletus

Type of Animal:

Mountainous areas, rocky hillsides, flat farmland, meadows, forests, woodlands, fields, marshes, barns, abandoned buildings, old woodpecker holes, suburbs, river floodplains, swamps, grasslands, urban areas, bayous, stream valleys, savanna, hilly areas, prairies, streamsides, riversides, old rock quarries, mammal burrows, rocky outcrops, old houses, chicken houses, brush

Found from New England south through Florida & W through E half of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, & Nebraska & NE to S Wisconsin. Isolated population in S Canada & N New York.

Adults glossy black w/ white lips/chin/throat, grayish/whitish belly, juveniles strongly patterned w/ brown blotches on gray background

Mice, rats, birds, eggs, lizards, frogs, other snakes (including of own species), chipmunks, squirrels, small rabbits, bats, voles, shrews, moles, young opossums, insects

Status in Wild:

Breeding from zoos, herpetoculture, & private breeders


Additional Info:


Male-4.9 lbs
Female-4.85 lbs

2 months 

Life Span:
15 years

Body Length:
Male-6 ft
Female-5 ft
Young-1.5 ft

Main predators of adults are larger snakes (including larger individuals of own species), alligators, coyotes, bobcats, foxes, raptors, bears, snapping turtles, otters, & pigs. Raccoons & skunks prey on young.

These snakes are not venomous & kill prey by constriction.

Females produce clutch of 12-20 eggs a year. In very good seasons, she can produces 2 clutches.

They hibernate in winter, often w/ rattlesnakes & copperheads.

They have wide range of temperaments, from docile to very aggressive.

They’re excellent climbers.

Sexually mature at 4 years.

They communicate using pheromones.

Adults sometimes mistaken for smaller black racers.

Fun Fact(s):
They’ll often freeze & stay motionless if provoked.

Often, they’ll release foul-smelling musk on predators.

Sometimes called Black Pilot Snake due to superstition that it led venomous snakes to hibernation den.

Very beneficial since they eat lots of rodents.

Juveniles often mistaken for venomous copperheads, & therefore often killed.

Adult snakes only eat once or twice a month, while juveniles eat once a week.

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