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by Valerie

July, 2017

Texas Rat Snake

One of the most commonly encountered snakes in our area is the Texas rat snake (Pantherophis obsoletus lindheimeri). This large snake, which usually grows to 5 or 6 feet in length, is a subspecies of the eastern rat snake and is generally acknowledged to be one of the most aggressive of our nonvenomous serpents. This characteristic makes it an easy photo subject because it tends to not retreat when approached but instead just holds its ground, no matter how many different angles a photographer tries. Due to their fearless behavior and the fact that adults are sort of a nondescript brown mottled pattern with a dark head, they are often mistaken for venomous snakes such as rattlesnakes, cottonmouths and copperheads. However, anyone familiar with our local snakes can usually easily tell the difference. While the rat snake will bite if handled, it has only tiny teeth and leaves hardly any wounds. I once found a young snake that had become stranded on a sidewalk near some stores. Knowing that it would be easy prey for wandering predators or be stepped on by people, I decided to move it somewhere safer. I knew what I was in for, but the quickness of the bite was still a bit startling.

Rat snakes are constrictors and will subdue particularly feisty prey within wrapped coils. They are also very good climbers and scale trees and walls to hunt bird eggs and nestlings. While they are excellent at rodent control, they can become a problem around chicken coops.

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