What kind of snake is this please?

Asked May 23, 2018, 8:25 PM EDT

He was trying to come in the front door, at first I thought it was a pygmy rattlesnake. .but I really have no clue, can you tell me what kind he is? Thank you.

Oklahoma County Oklahoma pantherophis obsoletus black ratsnake juvenile black ratsnake

1 Response

Thank you for your question. The snake in your photograph is a juvenile black ratsnake (Pantherophis obsoletus). The black ratsnake is non-venomous.

They can be found from New England to Florida and west to Texas and Nebraska. As juveniles, they have a very distinct pattern, usually made up of a light background with black rectangles down the back. As they get older, they gradually get darker and darker until they are almost completely black. However, the color of individuals can vary, and sometimes the pattern is more visible on some adults.

Typical length for this species is 4 - 5 feet, but maximum length can be around 8 feet. As their name implies, they feed primarily on mice and rats. However, they are excellent climbers and often raid bird and squirrel nests for bird eggs, hatchlings and young squirrels. They are also very fond of chicken eggs, so they're often found in chicken coops helping themselves to eggs. This has also earned them the common name of chicken snake in some parts of the U.S.

It's not unusual to find them in and around structures (homes, barns, storage buildings, etc.). In homes they're usually encountered in attics and basements or crawl spaces. They enter homes in the winter to stay warm, and usually leave when it warms up. They may be found crawl spaces and basements in the summer pursuing mice or rats, or because it's cooler. Juveniles are notorious for entering homes for some reason.

Rat snakes can usually be handled if you move slowly and pick them up gently. There are exceptions to this, of course. Some individuals just don't like to be handled, and will bite.

Here's a link to the University of Nebraska - Lincoln website on Nebraska snakes that contains information about the black ratsnake:

http://snr.unl.edu/herpneb/snake/snakeidentificationkey.asp

Hope this answers your question, and thank you for contacting Ask an Expert.

Jim