Status: Not Listed
Eastern rat snakes, formerly known as black rat snakes, are large non-venomous snakes between 3.5 and 7 feet (one and two meters) long. They have shiny black scales on their back and a light colored belly, and their throat and chin are white. The head of an eastern rat snake is wider than the neck and the rest of the body.
Eastern rat snakes live in fields, woodlands, farmlands, and around suburban communities from Connecticut to South Carolina and west to the middle of Kansas and Oklahoma. Predators include hawks and other snakes.
Eastern rat snakes are excellent swimmers and climbers. They will use these skills to catch a variety of food, from bird eggs to frogs. They are the snake most likely to be seen around buildings hunting for rodents, amphibians, and young birds. Eastern rat snakes are constrictor snakes and will use their body to suffocate their prey.
Rat snakes emit a foul-smelling odor when they feel threatened by a predator. This musk imitates what a poison would taste like.
The typical breeding season for this snake is from May to late June. During this time, male snakes search for females and will fight one another for the right to mate with a female. A female will lay between six and two dozen eggs, usually in late July. The eggs may take between five and seven weeks to develop and hatch. Hatchlings will stay near their hatching site for up to two years.
The eastern rat snake’s population is considered stable. However, these snakes are often mistreated by humans who are frightened of them. Although eastern rat snakes do not usually attack when threatened, there have been extreme cases of eastern rat snakes charging at predators. Despite making occasional appearances throughout the summer, eastern rat snakes are actually very shy and at the sight of danger will either freeze or slither away. Eastern rat snakes also produce a strong foul odor when scared to deter predators and humans.
Eastern rat snakes brumate in colder months. Brumation is similar to hibernation — it allows the snake to be mostly asleep, but still wake up for occasional activities, such as drinking water.
Animal Diversity Web, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology
Michigan Department of Natural Resources
The movement to remove racist names from birdsRead Story
A groundbreaking bipartisan bill aims to address the looming wildlife crisis before it's too late, while creating sorely needed jobs.Read More
Add one of our native plant collections to your garden to help save birds, bees, butterflies, and more. Now available for 20 states with free shipping!Shop Plants
Get quotes now or call (855) 786-0941Get Quotes Now
More than one-third of U.S. fish and wildlife species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. We're on the ground in seven regions across the country, collaborating with 53 state and territory affiliates to reverse the crisis and ensure wildlife thrive.