Texas rat snakes are medium-to-large, nonvenomous snakes that kill by constriction. They pose no threat to humans. There are Old World (Eastern Hemisphere) and New World (Western Hemisphere) Texas rat snakes, and the two types are fairly different genetically.
Adults like rats and mice, but will take birds and their eggs. Infants eat frogs, soft-bodied insects, and pinkies. Their demeanor is rather aggressive. They defend themselves by striking, biting, and smearing with the help of smelling musk from their cloacal glands. When excited, they rapidly vibrate their tails.
What is a Texas rat snake?
In the past two decades, the question of what is a Texas rat snake has become increasingly complicated to answer. Until the early 2000s, both Old and New World Texas rat snakes were generally thought to belong to the same genus, Elaphe, according to Alan Savitzky, a professor of biological sciences at Utah State University who specializes in the biology of snakes. The Texas rat snakes in North America are quite closely related to the king snakes than the Old World Texas rat snakes.
Ability to climb
The distinctive feature of Texas rat snakes is that they are excellent climbers and there are occasional reports of Texas rat snakes climbing the edges of brick walls on buildings. This can be the result of the snake detecting the presence of rodents, which frequently seek shelter in attics. This species will also climb trees in pursuit of eggs, birds, and squirrels. In many rural areas where poultry is maintained this snake has become famous by the common name chicken snake. This is due to the snake’s enthusiasm for freshly laid chicken eggs and chicks.
Texas rat snake appearance
According to Reptiles Magazine, Texas rat snake snakes can vary widely in appearance. They can have blotches, stripes, a mixture of both, or be single-colored. They can be black, red, yellow, gray, or black-and-white colored. They have keeled scales, slender bodies, and wedge-shaped heads, according to the National Zoological Park. Some species of Texas rat snake snakes reach lengths of 10 feet, though 4 to 6 feet long is more common, according to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park.
Range and habitats
Texas rat snake snakes are found throughout North America, from Central America to Southern Canada. Their habitats vary by species. The following is a list of some common Texas rat snake species’ ranges and habitats. The largest species of Texas rat snake snakes, this snake lives throughout New England and south to Georgia. They are found as far west as Northern Louisiana and as far north as Southern Wisconsin. They can live in a variety of forests and grasslands, a deciduous forest surrounded by grass is probably ideal.
Texas rat snake behavior varies among species. Some species, such as the black Texas rat snake/eastern Texas rat snake, are known to be shy but somewhat snappish and aggressive when cornered. They produce a bad-smelling musk when touched by a predator and spread it around with their tail. On the opposite end of the spectrum are corn snakes, some of the most docile serpents around. All species of Texas rat snake snakes may vibrate their tails in an attempt to trick a predator into confusing them for a rattlesnake. Texas rat snake snakes are semi-arboreal. While they’re nocturnal in warm areas, they’re still seen during the day fairly frequently.
Texas rat snake often feeds on small rodents, such as mice, rats, chipmunks, and voles, but they are also known to eat frogs, lizards, birds, and bird eggs. Infants are more likely to eat cold-blooded prey, while adults prefer almost exclusively to warm-blooded animals. Some species of Texas rat snake are called chicken snakes because they like to eat chicken eggs. Moreover, Texas rat snake snakes are known to both wait for and ambush their prey and to actively forage for it sometimes after killing their prey.
Texas rat snake snakes continue hunting. They do this because they are cloaked in the prey’s scent so other prey is less likely to notice them. They might kill more prey and then return to the original kill. Therefore, Texas rat snake snakes may eat many animals in a single meal. Texas rat snake snakes are constrictors and are the best performers in this arena.
Texas rat snake snakes are oviparous, meaning they lay eggs that spend little to no time incubating inside the mother, said Savitzky. If conditions are right, females may lay two clutches of eggs per year. Otherwise, they usually lay one. In cold climates, they may lay eggs less frequently. Mating season is often in the late spring, though it depends on the climate. Males attract females through pheromones and will sometimes fight other males for the same female, Five weeks later, females lay clutches of about 10 to 22 eggs in a hidden spot, such as in a hollow. Baby Texas rat snakes are quite long, around 14 inches. They are often eaten by hawks and other snakes.
Some species of Texas rat snake snakes are endangered. Canadian grey Texas rat snake snakes are either endangered or threatened depending on the location. Eastern/black Texas rat snake snakes are considered endangered in Massachusetts, and red Texas rat snake snakes are considered endangered in the Florida Keys.
All North American colubrid snake species are suggested for reclassification to the genus Pantherophis. A further revision of Pantherophis obsoletus has recommended the eradication of the varied subspecies utterly, considering all of them to be only locality variations. However, the ICZN has rejected the renaming, thus Elaphe remains the generally accepted generic name.
Unfortunately, this beneficial and harmless species is usually confused with venomous snakes like copperheads, cottonmouths, and Western diamondback rattlesnakes. Because of its size, this species has also been the source of the many ‘boa and python’ sightings. This is not because Texas rat snakes are difficult snakes to spot, but instead because the individual making the claim isn’t conversant in snakes native to Texas.
They have different colors as shown in these photos