Elaphe obsoleta (Ratsnake)

Photo by Troy Hibbitts

Written by Troy Hibbitts

General Information: The Ratsnake is the largest species of North American Elaphe, and has the most exensive geographic range. It reaches a maximum length of 101" (8'5"), although such a specimen would be a true giant. The Ratsnake is fairly variable in color and patten across its geographic range and five subspecies have been described. Two basic pattern are present in adults: blotched and with four longitudinal stripes. Juveniles of this species are all fairly similar, having a blotched pattern with large, dark blotches present along the back and smaller, lateral botches on the sides. The head is often speckled with an irregular spear point pattern, and a dark band crosses the prefrontal scales. A post ocular stripe is usually present, as well. Northern and western juveniles tend to have larger, more prominent blotches, while in southeastern specimens, the blotches tend to be smaller and not as distinct from the ground color. Some populations and subspecies of this snake have a reputation for being irascible in temperment. Other individuals and populations are quite docile. Being a large serpent, the Ratsnake is capable of eating quite large prey, up to the size of large fox squirrels (Sciurus niger). In many areas, this species is known for raiding chicken coops for eggs; hence the vernacular name of "Chicken Snake".


Elaphe obsoleta lindheimeri (Texas Ratsnake)

Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta (Black Ratsnake)

Elaphe obsoleta quadrivittata (Yellow Ratsnake)

Elaphe obsoleta rossalleni (Everglades Ratsnake)

Elaphe obsoleta spiloides (Gray Ratsnake)