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What is a Rat Snake
A rat snake is a large, polyphyletic, group of snakes from the colubrid subfamily colubrinae. Many species of these snakes sometimes tend to be very skittish and sometimes aggressive but bites are usually superficial. Colubridae is a broad classification of snakes that includes about two third of all the species of snakes on earth. These species are found on every continent, except from Antarctica.
Rat snakes were long thought to be venomous, but recent studies have shown that not all but some species of these snakes possess venom.
Adult rat snakes typically reach a size of 3 to 5 feet but some large individuals can reach upto more than 6 feet long.
Diet of Rat Snakes
Adult rat snakes primarily eat birds, mice, rats and squirrels and bird eggs. Their young normally feed on lizards, frogs and small rodents.
Rat snakes are constrictors. Constrictors are the snakes which kill their prey by method of constriction. Constriction is a way in which a snake coils itself around its prey and exerts extreme amount of force, thus keeping it from breathing, the lungs of the prey can't breathe and the prey dies gasping for air. They are adept climbers and can climb tree trunks and brick walls quite easily. There have been verified reports of rat snakes climbing as high as 30 feet to reach a bird's nest on a tree.
When frightened they often assume a “kinked” posture and remain motionless. They will also vibrate their tail and expel malodorous musk.
Distribution of Rat Snakes
They are present from southern Canada southward through much of the United States, Mexico, and Central America to Costa Rica. The rat snakes are also widely distributed in Eurasia.
A well fed rat snake will reach sexual maturity at 18 to 24 months of age. Mating season normally begin in winter but can last through spring if the temperature is feasable. They can lay upto 30 eggs in a clutch. Their young hatch after two months of incubation.
Life Span of Rat Snakes
Their life span exceeds 20 years in captivity. There have been reports for rat snakes living upto 23 and 25 years. In the wild their life span is normally 15 years.