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The Rat Snake
Elaphe obsoleta lindheimeri - The Texas Rat Snake
The Rat Snake
Two nights in a row here in rural Kaufman County Texas on the little Shaw farm I've had snake encounters. The first night as I walked the sidewalk, and then onto my parent's back porch, I stepped over a thing without really bothering to see what it was, then turned around and kicked it off the porch and half onto the sidewalk, where it then started slithering and hissing, and made a bit of a fuss about my rude behavior. I never saw what kind of snake it was, but it was small. The lights on the back porch were not on.
Last night I was doing the exact same thing, walking the sidewalk to the back porch. I was going inside to watch the Texas Rangers baseball game. I didn't make it to the back porch so quickly the second night, as I'd nearly walked up to the back end of what was clearly a very large snake just on the side of , and even with the line of the grass against the sidewalk. I was rather shocked by the sight, as this snake was at least four feet long, maybe five or more feet long. I jumped back several feet and instinctively shouted out of primal fear and shock.
Well the master of the house came out with his great big Mag flashlight, and he also turned on the very bright flood lights. We quickly identified the slithering critter as a Texas rat snake.
Learn About Rat Snakes On Amazon.com!
The Texas Rat Snake, Also Called A "Chicken Snake"
Now the picture above is not my own, and the reason I do not have my own pictures of the large rat snake that gave me a bit of a thrill and a silly Facebook status thing to post is because snakes are somewhat exciting. You must humbly submit that the majority of you do not think to go run and grab some sort of camera in order to photograph a snake when you happen to come into contact with one. I'm rather certain that most of you wonderful readers, were you so bold as to describe your snake adventures, well, you might have to omit some bits of honesty about it all.
Most of us never get past our primal fear of snakes.
So as it happened the Dad and I were outside contending with a large snake. I got all bold with the Pater familias at hand with his big flashlight, and I grabbed the thing by its tail. I assure you that non domesticated snakes in Texas are officially Texan, and so they do not appreciate being grabbed by their tails. The long snake aimed his head in my direction, which promptly caused me to drop its tail, scream like a little girl, and run the other direction into the darkness. A snake in the light is sometimes frightening enough to allow one to forget that they could very well be stepping on snakes in the dark.
My father knew already that the snake in question was a rat snake. I assure you that I was in no way so easily satisfied with his bit of two second taxonomy. I happen to know that the water moccasin can often be colored just the way this snake was - so please realize I was being very brave (totally stupid) when I grabbed the thing by its tail. Of course I regained my composure, and the snake regained his desire to just get away from the large two legged Texans making a fuss about it.
Dad kept focusing his bright beam of flashlight on the snake's head, and it was clearly no pit viper at all, and with the powers of Google, I quickly saw that my old Pater familias was completely right, it was a rat snake.
No snakes were harmed, and the creature slithered and coiled safely behind a big rubber rainwater reservoir against the house, but that doesn't mean that the snake in question isn't destined towards a bad end here, you see, the Pater familias raises chickens. Rat snakes are also very commonly known as "chicken snakes,"and this is because they really love to swallow bird eggs, and around here, we do not take lightly to chicken egg theft by snake.
Rat Snakes - They Get To Be Rather Large Sometimes
A Baja California Rat Snake (Bogertophis rosaliae)
The corn snake (Pantherophis guttatus guttatus), or red rat snake
Rat Snakes, Corn Snakes
Now there is a lot to know concerning rat snakes, and at present, the Wikipedia page for the general search term "rat snake," is pretty damned poor for a Wikipedia page concerning a species of creature so widespread and well known. Of course a part of the problem is that there are just quite a lot of species of rat snake. There are thirteen unique species of rat snake in the Americas, and forty unique species elsewhere.
Rat snakes of the Americas can get to be rather large. A five foot rat snake is no strange thing around here. The snakes aren't really aggressive, but they can be in the wild, as they aren't used to two legged fools grabbing them by their tails. Rat snake bites are hardly ever any problem. The rat snake can hardly break your skin even, and they don't want to bite you to begin with.
Rat snakes are constrictors, and they can be pretty powerful, but if a rat snake has ever killed a human being in North America, then I can't find the report that confirms it. Facts are that corn snakes are a species of rat snake, and the corn snake is one of the most common pet snakes found anywhere where a person keeps snakes as a pet.
You might happen to be wondering why there are snakes called corn snakes, and how it is they aren't called rat snakes, even though they are absolutely of the fine family of serpent known as the rat snakes - well I'm here to tell just the how and the why about that. Years ago farmers would stack their loads of corn ears in barns specifically for that storage, and the rats would come to eat what they could, and this of course, brought in the dear old red rat snakes, which as you can guess, became known as corn snakes for having helped our friends the farmers by ridding them of free loading rats in the corn storage barns.
Rat snakes of all kinds make good barn guests, and they even make good house guests. Yes indeed, friends, I read with my only two eyes a tale of a man who proudly proclaimed that he would in fact, release rat snakes into his attic whenever he saw mouse droppings up there where we keep the toys. The man said that there was never any issues, the snakes no longer felt welcome after they'd eaten all the rats, and they'd find some manner of exit of their own choosing so as to not alarm the bottom dwellers of the home.
I suggest that should you invite a rat or corn snake into your home as a guest, that you do take a moment to explain to he or she that they should not be seen near the chicken coops, so as to not be called in exactly this order: 1. chicken snake, and finally, 2. dead snake.
Rat Snake Vs Eggs
The Mandarin Rat Snake, Elaphe mandarina
Old World Rat Snakes, Venom, and a bit of Controversy
When we talk of the "new world," we are always talking about the Americas, and regardless of the fact that there is nothing new about either North or South America, and regardless even further of the fact that there were always plenty of persons living here. Western minds are poisoned with their own egos, but that is another story altogether.
In any case, when we talk about "old world" rat snakes, we are definitely referring to rat snakes that do NOT live in the Americas. Old world rat snakes were forever thought to be non venomous snakes, but as it turns out, this isn't true. Several species of old world rat snakes do, in fact, possess venom. The reasons it wasn't known before is the venom of the species of old world rat snakes that do have venom - is very ineffective or inconsequential to humans should one be so tom foolish as to have been bitten by our rat eating spineless friends, but then again maybe the old world persons were in the process of rebuking our spineless brethren for having eaten a chicken.
In the world of the biological sciences, there is some controversy. Probably not so heated as to cause fisticuffs, as the controversy only involves whether or not all the old world rat snakes belong in the same genus as do the new world rat snakes, and the genus in question is the noble spineless snake and sometimes chicken eating genus of Elaphe.
Never those who shirk controversy, friends of the philosopher Solon unite, and hug a rat snake today!