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Rat Snake


Class: Reptile
Other names: Black rat snake, pilot snake, chicken snake
Color: Shiny black
Size: 3 to 5 feet
Diet: Rodents, frogs, lizards, birds, eggs
Predators: Foxes, raccoons, owls, hawks (especially when young; few predators as adults)
Hazard: Bites are painful but no poisonous.
Interesting Fact: Rat snakes are sometimes called pilot snakes because it was believed that they lead other types of snakes to dens where they can winter over. Although this is not true, rat snakes often do congregate with different types of snakes in a hibernation-like state during the winter.

Rat Snakes: Intimidating but Mostly Harmless

Found in farmlands, forests, urban woodlots, backyards and sometimes home attics, rat snakes are the most commonly reported snakes in Maryland. They have:
• Shiny, scaly black skin
• A distinct, wedge-shaped head
• A belly with an irregular white and checkerboard pattern
• A white or cream chin or throat

Rat snakes in Maryland are typically 3 to 5 feet long when fully grown, although some have reached more than 8 feet in length.

Freezing at Signs of Danger

Rat snakes are shy and secretive and prefer to avoid human contact. Their first line of defense against an enemy is to freeze and produce a foul-smelling musk. If that doesn’t work, they may coil and snap at an attacker, rattling their tails in dry leaves to sound like a more dangerous rattlesnake. Their bite is not poisonous and not usually dangerous, however.

Rat snakes kill their prey by constriction. Their main sources of food are rodents, frogs, lizards, birds and eggs.

Female rat snakes lay 12-20 eggs in early spring, depositing them under leaves, inside a hole in a log or in other hidden places. Eggs hatch in two months. Young snakes are a foot long at birth and are grayish tan with black or dark brown spots. The coloration at this stage is similar to a copperhead snake. The young snakes turn black as they age.

Get Help If Rat Snakes Sliver Inside

Rat snakes in Maryland are excellent tree climbers and can scale brick walls as well. That’s one reason they frequently end up in the attic of homes, where they may live undetected for some time. To deter this invasion:
• Seal up holes, cracks and crevices where snakes can get in
• Keep tree branches away from the side and the roof of your home

Call Brody Brothers at 443-379-8857 if you need assistance in removing rat snakes from your home. No matter how harmless, they aren’t the kind of visitor you want in your attic.

 

If the snake if your yard looks different than the one pictured, it could be one of the following:

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