Eastern/Black Rat Snake

Eastern/Black Rat Snake Pantherophis alleghaniensis

Type of Animal:

Fields, woodlands, forests, farmland, suburban areas, rocky hillsides, deciduous forest surrounded by grassland, forested wetlands, isolated urban woodlots, thickets adjacent to forests, backyards, attics, edge habitats, early successional habitats, agricultural areas, barns, old/abandoned buildings, cave mouths, piedmont, mountainous areas, rocky timbered hills, river floodplains, swamps/swamp margins, grassland, savanna, old woodpecker holes, meadows, marshes, stream valleys, mammal burrows, old rock quarries, urban areas, hilly areas, chicken houses, old houses, rocky outcrops, riversides, streamsides

E US & tiny part of SE Canada

Shiny black w/ cream to white chin/throat, irregular black/white checkerboard patterned belly, slate gray around tail, juveniles have dark dorsal blotches on grayish ground color, same belly pattern as adults

Rodents, moles, shrews, rabbits, bats, lizards, frogs, birds, eggs, other snakes (including of own species), young opossums, insects

Status in Wild:

Breeding in zoos, herpetoculture, & private breeders

Solitary or small groups of 2-10 snakes 

Additional Info:

Young: Snakelet
Group: Den 
Male: 4 lbs
Female: 3.5 lbs
2 months 

Life Span:
15 years

Body Length:
Male: 6.65 ft
Female: 6.18 ft
Young: 2.5 ft

Tail Length:
1.55 ft, same for both sexes

Main predators of adults are other snakes (including larger individuals of own species), alligators, coyotes, foxes, bobcats, raptors, bears, snapping turtles, otters, & pigs. Raccoons & skunks prey on young.
These snakes nonvenomous, killing prey by constriction.
Females produce clutches of 4-25 eggs a year & can produce 2 clutches in good years.
They hibernate in winter, often w/ other snake species as well as w/ each other. 
They have wide range of temperaments, from docile to very aggressive.
They’re excellent climbers.
Sexually mature at 4 years old.
They communicate using pheromones.
Adults sometimes mistaken for smaller black racers.

Fun Fact(s):
Adult snakes only eat once or twice a month, juveniles typically eat once a week.
They’ll often freeze & stay motionless if provoked.
Often, they’ll release foul-smelling musk on predators/threats.
Very beneficial since they eat lots of rodents. However, they do eat small chickens, leading it to be called Chicken Snake.
Sometimes called Black Pilot Snake/Pilot Snake due to superstition that it led venomous snakes to hibernation den.
Juveniles sometimes mistaken for venomous copperheads, & therefore killed.

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