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A Hillbilly Guide to Snakes: The Yellow Rat Snake

Updated on August 1, 2012
Yellow rat snake.  Public domain.
Yellow rat snake. Public domain. | Source

Pantherophis obsoleta quadrivittata... The Yellow Rat snake

Also commonly referred to as chicken snake and Everglades rat snake, the yellow rat snake is a nonvenomous snake of the United States.


Of course the yellow rat snake is yellow, but it can also be an orange, brownish, or olive color. Some have brown lines or blotches from the color pattern they had when they were babies. Their stomachs are typically yellow and/or white. The yellow rat snake's head can be a little bit bigger than it's body.

Being one of the larger North American snakes, the yellow rat snake adult can measure between 4 and 6 feet in length.

Yellow rat snake. Photo by leppyone. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
Yellow rat snake. Photo by leppyone. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. | Source


Yellow rat snakes are found in the southeastern side of the United States. They are found throughout Florida and parts of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.

Yellow rat snakes are unique in that they are excellent at both rummaging through burrows underground and climbing trees. Yellow rat snakes have been found as high as 60 feet up in trees looking for prey. They like forested areas, farmlands, and swamps.

Yellow rat snake.  Public Domain.
Yellow rat snake. Public Domain. | Source


Yellow rat snakes are opportunistic eaters and constrictors. They will eat rodents, other reptiles, amphibians, eggs, and birds. Along with other species of rat snakes they are referred chicken snakes for commonly rummaging through chicken houses and stealing eggs or occasionally killing chickens. Most farmers welcome them with open arms however, because rat snakes will keep down the population of rodents that can be much more dangerous to their livestock and/or crops. The occasional chicken egg is a small price to pay for the great service these snakes provide.

Yellow rat snake.  Public domain.
Yellow rat snake. Public domain. | Source

Interactions With Humans

Yellow rat snakes have a reputation for being both aggressive an non-aggressive. The yellow rat snakes in the more southern areas are known for being more aggressive than the ones to the north. No one knows for sure why this is. The younger the snake is the more likely it is to bite a human. However this isn't a major concern as they are nonvenomous and should cause little harm. When threatened the yellow rat snake may take a unique defensive position to make itself appear as a fallen tree branch.

Yellow rat snakes born and raised in captivity are known to be docile, and wild yellow rat snakes taken in to captivity are known to become docile fairly quickly. They are a commonly traded pet.

Yellow rat snake.  Public domain.
Yellow rat snake. Public domain. | Source


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