Black rat snake, Pilot snake, Pilot black snake, Chicken snake, Yellow rat snake, Everglades rat snake, Eastern ratsnake
The Eastern rat snake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis) is a nonvenomous colubrid species native to North America. These snakes live in a variety of habitats and have few known predators other than humans.
Nocturnality is an animal behavior characterized by being active during the night and sleeping during the day. The common adjective is "nocturnal",...
Diurnal animals are active during the daytime, with a period of sleeping or other inactivity at night. The timing of activity by an animal depends ...
A carnivore meaning 'meat eater' is an organism that derives its energy and nutrient requirements from a diet consisting mainly or exclusively of a...
Terrestrial animals are animals that live predominantly or entirely on land (e.g., cats, ants, snails), as compared with aquatic animals, which liv...
Arboreal locomotion is the locomotion of animals in trees. In habitats in which trees are present, animals have evolved to move in them. Some anima...
Precocial species are those in which the young are relatively mature and mobile from the moment of birth or hatching. Precocial species are normall...
A burrow is a hole or tunnel excavated into the ground by an animal to create a space suitable for habitation, temporary refuge, or as a byproduct ...
Oviparous animals are female animals that lay their eggs, with little or no other embryonic development within the mother. This is the reproductive...
Congregatory animals tend to gather in large numbers in specific areas as breeding colonies, for feeding, or for resting.
Predators are animals that kill and eat other organisms, their prey. Predators may actively search for or pursue prey or wait for it, often conceal...
Generally solitary animals are those animals that spend their time separately but will gather at foraging areas or sleep in the same location or sh...
NoNot a migrant
Animals that do not make seasonal movements and stay in their native home ranges all year round are called not migrants or residents.
Hibernation is a state of minimal activity and metabolic depression undergone by some animal species. Hibernation is a seasonal heterothermy charac...
Adults are shiny black dorsally, with a cream or white chin and throat. Their belly has an irregular black and white checkerboard pattern, becoming uniformly slate gray towards the tail. Juveniles have dark dorsal blotches on a grayish ground color. The ventral pattern in juveniles is the same as in adults. The eyes are round with a black pupil, particularly in juveniles but not always present in adults, with a distinct white margin. Males and females have the same coloration.
Eastern rat snakes are found in the United States east of the Apalachicola River in Florida, east of the Chattahoochee River in Georgia, east of the Appalachian Mountains, north to southeastern New York and western Vermont, eastern Pennsylvania, Maryland, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, south to the Florida Keys. These snakes live in farmlands, hardwood forests, forested wetlands, thickets and fields adjacent to forests, isolated urban woodlots, and backyards that support populations of prey species. Eastern rat snakes can even get into human residences, where they may live in attics undetected.
Eastern rat snakes are primarily active at night during the summer, and diurnal in the spring and fall. They are terrestrial burrowers and excellent climbers, and they may enter the water. Eastern rat snakes find their shelter under rocks and boards, in trees under bark, and within knot holes and palm fronds. They hibernate during the winter underground or in deep crevices. They are generally solitary creatures but may congregate in the same dens with other species of snakes, such as copperheads, Eastern racers, and Timber rattlesnakes. In Northern climes, Eastern rat snakes are active from late April to October and mate in May or June. In the South, they usually become active earlier. Ratsnakes are most vulnerable to predators as juveniles although adults also have few known predators other than humans. When frightened, Eastern rat snakes will freeze. If harassed, they will produce a foul-smelling musk to deter predators. If provoked further, they may coil, shake their tail, and snap at their attacker.
Eastern rat snakes are carnivorous reptiles. Their diet includes rodents, lizards, frogs, birds and their eggs. These snakes can also eat young chickens and chicks, hence the common name chicken snake.
Eastern rat snakes start to breed in May and June, earlier in the South. Males approach females to initiate breeding and may combat other males before breeding. About five weeks after mating, the female lays 5 to 27 eggs in hollow standing and fallen trees, compost and mulch heaps, sawdust piles, and decomposing logs. Incubation is about two months, and eggs hatch from July through September. Hatchlings are usually just over a foot long at birth, with the distinct gray and black pattern characteristic of juveniles. They are able to care for themselves upon hatching and reach reproductive maturity in their fourth year.
There are no major threats to Eastern rat snakes at present. However, these snakes are often killed because of fear. Their habitat is slowly being reduced locally due to agricultural development and urbanization but in most areas, Eastern rat snakes continue to maintain a healthy population.
According to IUCN, the Eastern rat snake is locally common and widespread throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List.
Eastern rat snakes play a very important role in their ecosystem as due to their diet habit they control populations of various pests such as mice, rats, and other rodents.