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Elaphe obsoleta

Common Name: Black Rat Snake
Elaphe obsoleta
Elaphe obsoleta

Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Family: Colubridae
Genus: Elaphe
Species: Elaphe obsoleta

Conservation Status

Identifying Features

Black rat snakes have glossy black bodies with white lips, chins, and throats. Juvenile snakes have a distinct brown and gray pattern that will eventually darken and turn black as they mature. They are one of the longest snakes in North America and can grow to be between 34-101 inches in length.

Habitat & Range

Black rat snakes can be found in wooded areas (preferably oak trees) and are widely distributed throughout the central and eastern United States.


Black rat snakes are excellent climbers and will spend much of their time in trees. In addition, they are proficient swimmers and can travel through water if needed.

When frightened, black rat snakes can release a foul smell that is used to deter predators. If provoked further, they will coil up, shake its tail, and strike to bite. Though the bite is not venomous, it can be painful due to the large size of the snake.

Life Cycle

Black rat snakes begin to breed after emerging from their winter hibernation. Females lay eggs in hidden areas (under leaf litter or abandoned burrows) and leave once they finish. After around 2 months, hatchlings emerge from the eggs and remain on their own into adulthood.

Featured image by Steve Hersey


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