Black Rat Snake

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Is the Black Rat Snake right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Eastern Rat Snake, Pilot Black Snake, Black Snake

Scientific name: Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta

The basics:
The Black Rat Snake in its many color phases was among the first snakes to be firmly established in the North American pet trade, and remains a staple today. Suitable for novices yet interesting enough for advanced hobbyists, it usually makes an ideal reptile pet.

The Black Rat Snake ranges from southwestern New England , southern Wisconsin, and southern Ontario, Canada through much of the eastern and central USA to the Florida Keys and Louisiana.

These adaptable, semi-arboreal constrictors utilize forests, fields, rocky hillsides, swamps, and overgrown suburban lots, and are drawn to farms, stone walls, and abandoned buildings in search of rodents.

Appearance / health:
Most Black Rat Snakes are uniform black in color, with an off-white underside, but some show gray blotches and stripes. Populations from North Carolina through the Florida Keys are yellow and orange in color. Formerly classified as the Everglades Rat Snake and the Yellow Ratsnake, they are now considered to be color variations of the Black Rat Snake. Juveniles are pale gray and patterned in dark gray or brown. Hobbyists have developed a number of unique color morphs and hybrids with related species. Black ratsnakes average 3 – 5 ½ feet in length, with a record of 8 ½.

Black Rat Snakes are exceptionally hardy, with a record captive longevity of 34 years. “Blister disease” and other skin infections can take hold if your pet is kept in a damp terrarium, and as with most snakes they may be subject to mites or, more rarely, inclusion body disease.

Behavior / temperament:
Young Black Rat Snakes may be defensive, but most calm down quickly and take well to handling. However, as with all snakes, they will bite when stressed and must be handled with care.

Hatchlings may be raised in 10 gallon aquariums, while average-sized adults require a 20-40 gallon tank. The screen top should always be secured with clips or locks. Stout, well-anchored branches serve well as basking sites, and a hide box should always be available. Newspapers, washable terrarium liners, eucalyptus mulch or aspen bedding work well as substrates.

An ambient temperature of 72-82 F with a basking temperature of 90 F should be maintained. Large enclosures are necessary if a thermal gradient is to be established. Thermal gradients allow snakes to regulate their body temperature by moving from hot to cooler areas.

These powerful constrictors hunt on the ground and in the trees, preying upon chipmunks, mice, squirrels, voles, lizards, birds, and bats. Pets do fine on a diet comprised of mice and small rats. Some types of wood chips can lodge in the mouth and cause wounds during feeding; feed your snake in a bare-bottomed enclosure to prevent this.

Black Rat Snakes breed most consistently if chilled to 50 F (after a 2 week fast) for 6-8 weeks. Mating occurs from March to June in most regions, with the 6-30 eggs being deposited 25-40 days thereafter. A second clutch may be produced in late summer or early fall. At 80-82 F, incubation time averages 50-75 days. The young are 8- 13 inches long upon hatching.

Written by Frank Indiviglio


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Helpful Black Rat Snake Review

Black Rat Snake

From HopewellMama May 5 2014 10:29PM


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