Elaphe obsoleta rossalleni (Everglades Ratsnake)
Written by Deron Hartman
Common Names: Everglades Ratsnake, Chicken Snake
Scientific Name: Elaphe obsoleta rossalleni
Range: Found from extreme southern Florida north into Glades, Martin, and Okeechobee counties. The draining of the everglades and planting of Australian Casaurina trees along highways has allowed the everglades ratsnake to move northward and the yellow ratsnake (E. o. quadrivittata) to move southward. The two subspecies readily intergrade with one another to the point that true, nearly patternless, orange-red everglades rats have now become quite hard to find.
Habitat: The habitat consist of everglades and wetland prairies to subtropical hardwood forests, cypress swamplands, and pinelands.
Behavior: Everglades ratsnakes, like yellow rats, are active both day and night. They can be found crossing roads at night and during the day sunning themselves along the tree line or on dirt roads. They are also great climbers, and are often found high up in Australian pine trees. Breeding is accomplished in the same way as the yellow ratsnake. A cooling down period is not necessary but may help. Simply shortening the light cycle is usually all that is required in order to breed this subspecies. As with the yellow ratsnake, breeding usually takes place from March to May with anywhere from 6 to 30 eggs being laid between May and July. Incubation lasts from 55-60 days. Hatchlings will feed on lizards or pink mice while adults feed on rodents and birds.
Size: Hatchlings are usually from 8-10 inches. Average adult length is between 36 and 48 inches with the record being 87 inches.
Coloration: Hatchlings usually have a light gray ground color with darker gray blotches and a ventral pattern consisting of whitish-gray and dark gray checkers. Hatchlings are sometimes born with hints of orange color. In adults, both the dorsal and ventral coloration vary from orange to a deep orange-red, with specimens from the northern end of their range often having a more yellowish-orange color due to genetic influence from the yellow rat (E. o. quadrivittata). The dorsal pattern varies from nearly non-existent (sometimes completely absent) to a series of four typically faded stripes running the length of the body often coupled with faint blotches.
Deckert's Ratsnake (E. o. deckerti). A problematic form often called the Key's ratsnake. Their range is usually considered to be from Key Largo south to Lower Matacumbe. Their dorsal color and pattern varies from a tannish-yellow like the yellow ratsnake to a deep orange red like the everglades ratsnake, typically with four stripes together with blotches which are sometimes very boldly pronounced.
Hypomelanistic. A fairly widely bred color mutation. They are strikingly colored, solid, bright orange snakes lacking both blotches and stripes. They are sometimes referred to as albino, even though they have normal colored eyes.