BLACK RAT SNAKE
Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta
Squamata (Amphisbaenians, lizards and snakes)
HABITAT AND RANGE
Black rat snakes are one of the most successful and widely distributed snakes in North America. They can be found throughout New England, south to Florida and all the way to the western fringes of the great plains. They are equally at home in high elevation rocky fields to farmlands and woodlands at sea level.
Black rat snakes, as their name implies, are completely black with the exception of a small white chin. They generally grow to lengths of 100-180cm long.
Black rat snakes are constrictors meaning they suffocate their prey by wrapping their coils around their victims preventing the animal from expanding its lungs. They hunt on land for lizards, frogs, birds, eggs, rats and other small mammals.
REPRODUCTION AND LIFESPAN
The rat snake lays its eggs in June or July, usually 1-2 dozen eggs. Small, light colored and heavily patterned young hatch around August. When the snakes reach a few feet in length, the pattern disappears yielding the familiar black snake.
Rat snakes are generally shy and try to avoid confrontation. If they feel threatened they will often coil their bodies and rustle their tail in some dead leaves to simulate the rattle and posture of a rattlesnake. Like many other colubrids, if they are threatened they will also emit a foul smelling musk which they spread around with their tails. During the hot summer, these snakes are generally nocturnal.