What kind of snake is this?

Asked September 17, 2019, 10:50 PM EDT

This snake fell outta my laundry when I was switching my loads from washer to dryer.. needless to say it made me jump. Also would like to know if its poisonous and what precautions I should take if any.. thank you

Westmoreland County Pennsylvania

1 Response

Thank you for your question. The snake in your photograph is a juvenile black ratsnake, scientific name Pantherophis obsoletus. It is a non-venomous species.

Young ratsnakes are notorious for showing up in homes. Often they are small enough to get through relatively small openings. Make sure you doors make a good seal within the frame, and don't leave them open (i.e., both the door and storm/screen door open together) without someone watching the doorway. Also, if you open windows, make sure your screens are in good condition, no holes, etc.

This snake is found throughout or in portions of every eastern state except Maine and New Hampshire. They live in a variety of habitats, including forests, open areas and urban settings, especially if there are still sufficient numbers of trees.

This is one of the longest snakes we have in the eastern/southeastern United States. Typical adult length is 4-5 feet, but a maximum length of slightly over 8 feet has been recorded. They are excellent climbers.

They feed primarily on mice and rats, but also eat birds and young squirrels. They are also fond of chicken eggs.

If you're interested in learning more about snakes in your area, this is an excellent guide:

Gibbons, Whit. (2017). Snakes Of The Eastern United States. Athens: The University of Georgia Press.

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

Jim