Russian Ratsnake

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Is the Russian Ratsnake right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Amur RatsnakeSiberian Ratsnake, Manchurian Watersnake

Scientific name: Elaphe schrencki schrencki

The basics:
The Russian Ratsnake is one of the largest of the robust constrictors commonly known as ratsnakes. Powerful and boldly-marked, it has long been hard to come by, but is now regularly bred by European and American snake enthusiasts. Its range is centered in Siberia’s Amur River basin, home to such spectacular creatures as the Siberian Tiger and Amur Leopard. It is also found in eastern Mongolia, north and central China, and Korea. Russian Ratsnakes tend to be found near water, but otherwise adapts to a variety of habitats, including temperate forests, alpine woodlands, marshes, overgrown fields and agricultural areas. They are equally at home on the ground or in trees.

Appearance / health:
Indigo to black background coloration marked with bright yellow or white cross-bars renders the Russian Ratsnake a most striking creature. One of the longest snakes in northern Asia, it may reach or slightly exceed 6 feet in length. A number of interesting color morphs, such as all-black, white-blotched, striped, and high-gold, as well as hybrids with Japanese Ratsnakes, have been developed by hobbyists.

Behavior / temperament:
Most are quite calm in demeanor once accustomed to their homes. As with all large snakes, appropriate caution must exercised when they are handled.

Russian Ratsnakes are more active than most of their American counterparts, and should be provided with proportionally larger accommodations. While a 55-75 gallon aquarium will suit small adult, larger individuals are best provided custom-built cages measuring at least 6 x 5 feet. Newspapers, cypress mulch, eucalyptus bark and similar materials may be used as substrates. Stout climbing branches will be well-used. A dry shelter and another stocked with moist sphagnum moss should be provided. Ambient temperature: 70-76 F; Basking temperature: 82 F.

Adult Russian Rat Snakes are sizable creatures that produce copious amounts of fecal material which must be removed regularly. The enclosure should be misted daily and thoroughly cleaned each 2-4 weeks.

Wild Russian Ratsnakes are not at all choosy when it comes to food, and consume ground squirrels, rabbits, bats, birds and their eggs, voles, chipmunks, and many other creatures with equal gusto. They frequently colonize farms, where they are valued as rat-killers and defiled as chicken thieves. Pets do well on a diet comprised of mice and rats.

Captive breeding is becoming more common. A 3-4 month cooling off period at 50-52 F will stimulate reproduction. Clutches range from 6-30 eggs in size, and are usually deposited in June-July. As an adaptation to the short summers in their native range, female Russian Ratsnakes retain their eggs for a time, and deposit them in a well-advanced state. At an incubation temperature of 82 F, they typically hatch within 40 days. Hatchlings measure 11-15 inches in length and differ markedly from adults, being light gray in color and sporting black specks and reddish blotches.

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