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Rat Snakes

Updated on July 28, 2009
Yellow Rat Snake
Yellow Rat Snake

Rat Snake

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.

Hunting Skills

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.


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    • profile image

      greatdayofthLord 8 years ago

      I found a black rat\blue racer hybrid today! Without question! This gots to be the coolest snake Ive ever seen!

    • Ultimate Hubber profile image

      Ultimate Hubber 8 years ago

      Thanx Sidney... Its good to hear that a fellow hubber actually possess a black rat snake which is cool!

    • profile image

      Sidney Rayne 8 years ago

      Pretty good read....glad to see you pointed out that a few of the colubridae have been know to contain venom (Mangrove, Boomslang..etc). I actually have a black rat snake hybrid...he is by far the tamest snake I have ever owned...quite fascinating as well with some of the behavior he has displayed over the years in terms of defense mechanisms.

    • Ultimate Hubber profile image

      Ultimate Hubber 8 years ago

      Alright... I think we will like to hear about your encounters. Maybe you can write a hub about them.

    • free4india profile image

      free4india 8 years ago

      Oh my God ! Snakes gives me shivers..... I have had some encounters with them....

    • Ultimate Hubber profile image

      Ultimate Hubber 8 years ago

      These is a species of snakes known for its beautiful and unique markings and designs on their skins. They look really beautiful and their skin is used to make hand-bags and other stuff. I forgot its name. When I can remember their name I will post it.

    • rb11 profile image

      rb11 8 years ago from Las Vegas

      These snakes have an amazing life span, most of the recent snake pictures in your hubs show the snakes with quite unique markings. Their not a bad looking bunch considering they are snakes.


    • Ultimate Hubber profile image

      Ultimate Hubber 8 years ago

      I am glad you liked picture and the description.

    • Lady Guinevere profile image

      Debra Allen 8 years ago from West By God

      Thanks for the picture and excellent description.