Yellow Rat Snake

Yellow Rat Snake



COMMON NAME: yellow rat snake, chicken snake
KINGDOM: Animalia
PHYLUM: Chordata
CLASS: Reptilia
ORDER: Squamata
FAMILY: Colubridae
GENUS SPECIES: Elaphe (the deer) obsoleta quadrivittata


DESCRIPTION: Dorsal and lateral surfaces have a yellow to olive background with four dark longitudinal stripes; ventral surface is pale yellow; may exhibit coloration with stripes and blotches; head often speckled with irregular spear point pattern and a dark band
SIZE: 101.6-177.8 cm (40-70 in) average adult length; 228.6 cm (90 in) maximum reported length
WEIGHT: No data
DIET: Small mammals, frogs, lizards, birds, and eggs
INCUBATION: 55-60 days
CLUTCH SIZE 5-27 eggs on average
SEXUAL MATURITY: Determined by size rather than age; most species begin to reproduce when they reach approximately half their eventual size
LIFE SPAN: 20+ years
RANGE: Coastal regions of North Carolina south along the coast through South Carolina and into central Georgia and Florida
HABITAT: Pine flatlands, slash pine scrub, coastal hardwood hammocks, oak hammocks, cypress dome swamps, and deciduous hardwoods; yellow rat snakes are commonly found around citrus groves, pastures, and abandoned buildings
CITES Not listed
USFWS Not listed


1. Like many reptiles, the incubation temperature of their eggs may determine the offsprings' sex; warmer temperatures usually favor males while cool temperatures favor females.
2. The yellow rat snake, or chicken snake, is known to feed on domestic fowl (i.e. chickens) and their eggs. This practice is how they came to receive one of their common names, "chicken snake".
3. Like pythons and boas, rat snakes are constrictors, which suffocate their prey.
4. Yellow rat snakes spend much time underground prowling through rodent burrows.
5. Truly arboreal, yellow rat snakes will commonly climb trees to reach and devour birds and their eggs. The snake is known to climb to heights of 60 feet search for prey in trees.


Many other important predators (i.e. birds-of-prey) feed on young snakes. This means that snakes fulfill roles as both predators and prey in regional food chains. Yellow rat snakes are also valuable in their role of curbing rodent populations, especially those near human settlement and agricultural settings. Because rodents often live in barns and garages, this is where most humans encounter them. Unfortunately, many snake species suffer from habitat destruction and alteration.


Areste, Manuel and Cebrián, Rafael. Snakes of the World. New York: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., 2003.

Bauchot, Roland. Snakes: A Natural History. New York: Sterling Pub. Co. 1994.

Coborn, John. The Atlas of Snakes of the World. New Jersey: T.F.H. Publications, inc. 1991.

Mehrtens, John M. Living Snakes of the World. New York: Sterling Publishing Co., 1987.