Black Rat Snake Biology: In general, black rat snakes are a medium-sized snake. Their average length is between 40 to 70 inches. The widest point of the snake’s body is usually near the tail section and the snake has an average diameter of around two inches. This length and width makes black rat snakes have a powerful and sleek body that is able to move fluidly horizontally on the ground, as well as vertically in trees. The snake is covered with black keeled scales. It's a black snake – one of the only species with such an opaque color – with a slightly white chin.
The rat snake species all share similar characteristics and much of their habitat is identical. However, each sub-species, including the black rat snake, have their differences. The black rat snake, for example, likes to live in high-altitude regions and tend to find homes in rocky areas; however, certain black snakes, like those from more northern regions, are found to live in flat farmlands. Ultimately, the black rat snake is a very adaptable species that can live in a variety of environments.
Behavior: Rat snakes are very timid creatures which try to avoid confrontation. Often, they will lie in what is called the 'kink' position. The 'kink' position involves the snake remaining motionless with its body in a slight s-curve. This position is supposed to imitate the look of a fallen branch and, thus, avoid any attacks from unsuspecting predators. Adult black snakes have been known to be more aggressive than young rat snakes. They will rattle their tails to simulate a rattlesnake and will strike if provoked far enough.
A black rat snakes best defense is its last resort 'smell release'. When in serious danger, like being attacked by a dangerous predator, the snake will release a foul smelling musk-like smell. The smell is supposed to imitate what a poison-like smell would taste like – on most occasions, this isn't a very effective technique. Region also has an effect on the behavior of a black rat snake. For example, Texas rat snakes are much more snappy and aggressive.
Diet: Black rat snakes normally eat any kind of rodent that is smaller than they are. This usually consists of small lizards, baby mice and small frogs. Older and larger black rat snakes will eat larger rodents, as well as consume other kinds of mammals. This may include chipmunks, moles and a large variety of mice and rats. Sometimes, a black rat snake, if desperate, will eat bird eggs.
To eat their food, rat snakes use the constriction technique. This involves them waiting patiently before a prey is unsuspecting; then they will strike, first biting the prey and then moving in and strangling them. The constriction process usually takes some time; then, afterwards, the snake will consume the prey in a single bite. Digestion is very slow, sometimes taking days for food to be fully digested. Adult snakes will only eat once or twice a month, while young snakes will eat weekly.
Reproduction: Black rat snakes will mate once a year. The mating process is similar in all species of snakes. It involves both the males and females releasing a unique smell around mating time which causes both parties to become prepared for the process. When mating occurs, males will often mate with multiple females. The female will remain pregnant for up to the three months and can give birth to as little as 3 snakes and as much as 80 snakes.
At birth the snake is independent from the mother. In fact, in some cases, if there is a food shortage, the mother may eat its offspring. Depending on the region, as well as the amount of snakes born, many snakes will die within the first few weeks. This is due to a few reasons such as there not being enough food, to the environment not being completely suitable.
Below are some other species of snake that may look like a Black Rat Snake:
Northern Water Snake
Many people want to know how to kill a Black Rat Snake, but you don't need to. The best way to get rid of Black Rat Snakes is to simply leave them alone. You can also use a Black Rat Snake trap to catch them - that's one of the best ways for how to remove Black Rat Snake. For more information, go to my Snake Removal - How to Get Rid of Snakes home page.