- Common Name
- black rat snake, pilot snake
- Genus Species
- Elaphe (the deer) obsoleta obsoleta
- Young are blotched black and gray; adults have a shiny black back with light brown or gray undersides; white chin and throat
- 90-180 cm (42-72 in) average adult length; 270 cm (9 ft) maximum reported length
- No data
- Small mammals, frogs, lizards, birds, and eggs
- 68-77 days; young hatch in the fall and are 10-16 inches at birth
Clutch Size: 5-20 eggs
- Breeding Period
- Eggs are laid between June and August in leaf litter or under rocks
- Sexual Maturity
- 3-4 years
- Life Span
- 10-15 years in the natural environment
- Northeastern and central United States; north to Wisconsin, west to Oklahoma, south to Louisiana and Georgia
- Woodlands and rocky outcroppings
- Global: No data
- IUCN: No data
CITES: Not listed
USFWS: Not listed
- Black rat snakes are one of the longest snakes in North America, occasionally reaching lengths of 8 feet.
- When threatened, rat snakes will "rattle" their tail, fooling other animals into believing they are venomous.
- Like pythons and boas, rat snakes are constrictors, which suffocate their prey.
- In the colder months of the year, the black rat snake will den up with other snakes including the timber rattlesnake and the racer. This may have caused the incorrect belief that the black rat snake leads the other snakes to shelter, earning it the name 'pilot snake'.
- Black rat snakes are excellent climbers and hunt for birds and eggs in trees.
Ecology and Conservation
Black rat snakes are helpful in controlling the rodent population, which can cause crop destruction and spread diseases.
Areste, Manuel and Cebrián, Rafael. Snakes of the World. New York: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., 2003.
Conant, Roger, and Joseph T. Collins. Peterson Field Guide-Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, 1991.
Mattison, Chris. Snakes of the World. Facts on File, Inc. New York, 1988.
Mehrtens, John M. Living Snakes of the World. New York: Sterling Publishing Co., 1987.