Yellow Rat Snake

Yellow Ratsnake Pantherophis quadrivittata

Type of Animal:

Swamps/swamp margins, oak hammocks, cutover woods, fallow fields, fields adjacent to forests, farmland, agricultural fields, pastures, barns, abandoned buildings, farmhouses, forests, floodplains, timbered hills, hardwood hammocks, pinelands, pine flatlands, pine shrubland, slash pine scrub, marshes, prairies, suburban areas, residential areas, homes, backyards, deciduous hardwoods, citrus groves, forested wetlands, thickets adjacent to forests, isolated urban woodlots

Ranges from coastal N Carolina to SE Georgia & most of Florida

Yellow to olive background w/ 4 dark longitudinal stripes, pale yellow ventral surface, often has stripes and/or blotches, head often speckled w/ irregular spear point pattern & dark band, juveniles grayer w/ darker blotches

Small mammals, birds, lizards, frogs, eggs

Status in Wild:

Breeding in zoos & herpetoculture

Solitary or groups of 2-15 snakes 

Additional Info:

Young: Snakelet
Group: Den

Male: 3 lbs
Female: 2 lbs

2.5 months 

Life Span:
10-15 years in wild, 20 years in captivity

Body Length:
Male: 5-6 ft
Female: 4-5 ft
Young: 1.5 ft

Tail Length:
Male: 0.96-1.14 ft
Female: 0.56-0.72 ft

Main predators of adults are raptors, larger snakes, alligators, foxes, bobcats, coyotes, bears, snapping turtles, otters, pigs, & cats. Raccoons, skunks, & other snakes prey on young.
Spend lots of time underground & in trees as high as 60 ft off ground.
When disturbed, they’ll vibrate tail rapidly, which in dry leaves sounds like rattlesnake’s rattle.
Relatively slow-moving snakes.
Sometimes interbreed w/ Eastern Black Rat Snakes.
Like all rat snakes, they kill prey by constriction.
Breed from April-July, w/ females laying 5-30 eggs.
Sexually mature at 4 years.
Can be active any time of day.
Hibernate in cooler periods, sometimes w/ other snake species & often w/ conspecifics 
Communicate using pheromones.

Fun Fact(s):
Sometimes called “chicken snake” due to habit of eating chicks/eggs/young adult chickens. However, they’re more beneficial than harmful to humans since rodents are favorite food.
Like many reptiles, incubation temps help determine sex-warmer egg temps favoring males & cooler egg temps favoring females.
Often killed on roadways due to “freezing” defense used when 1st encountering danger.
Another defense mechanism is to vibrate tail & expel foul-smelling musk.
Yellow Rat Snake, stock photo

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