logo

Eastern Rat Snake, Rat Snake, Chicken Snake, Yellow Rat Snake, Everglades Rat Snake

NON-VENOMOUS

snake

snake

Scientific name: Pantherophis alleghaniensis (HOLBROOK 1836)

* Currently accepted name

Synonym:

* scientific names used through time

  • Coluber alleghaniensis – HOLBROOK 1836
  • Coluber obsoletus – HOLBROOK 1836
  • Coluber quadrivittatus – HOLBROOK 1836
  • Coluber quadri-vittatus – HOLBROOK 1842 (fide DUMÉRIL et al. 1854)
  • Georgia obsoleta – BAIRD & GIRARD 1853
  • Scotophis alleghaniensis – BAIRD & GIRARD 1853
  • Scotophis quadrivittatus – BAIRD & GIRARD 1853
  • Elaphis quadri-vittatus – DUMÉRIL, BIBRON & DUMÉRIL 1854
  • Elaphis spiloides – DUMÉRIL, BIBRON & DUMÉRIL 1854
  • Elaphis alleghaniensis – HALLOWELL 1856
  • Elaphe obsoletus – COPE 1875
  • Coluber obsoletus confinis – COPE 1875
  • Coluber obsoletus obsoletus – COPE 1875
  • Coluber obsoletus lemniscatus – COPE 1888
  • Coluber obsoletus spiloides – COPE 1888
  • Elaphe obsoleta confinis – STEJNEGER & BARBOUR 1917
  • Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta – STEJNEGER & BARBOUR 1917
  • Elaphe quadrivittata – STEJNEGER & BARBOUR 1917
  • Elaphe quadrivittata deckerti – BRADY 1932
  • Elaphe quadrivittata quadrivittata – BRADY 1932
  • Elaphe confinis – BARBOUR & CARR 1940
  • Elaphe deckerti – BARBOUR & CARR 1940
  • Elaphe obsoleta – BARBOUR & CARR 1940
  • Elaphe williamsi – BARBOUR & CARR 1940
  • Elaphe quadrivittata parallela – BARBOUR & ENGELS 1942
  • Elaphe obsoleta deckerti – NEILL 1949
  • Elaphe obsoleta quadrivittata – NEILL 1949
  • Elaphe obsoleta rossalleni – NEILL 1949
  • Elaphe obsoleta spiloides – CONANT 1958
  • Elaphe obsoleta williamsi – CONANT 1958
  • Elaphe alleghaniensis – BURBRINK 2001
  • Elaphe spiloides – BURBRINK 2001
  • Pantherophis obsoletus – UTIGER ET AL. 2002

Description: Average adult size is 36-72 inches (91.4-182.8 cm), record is 90 inches (228.6 cm). It is variable in coloration, but juveniles are gray with dark blotches and a sandy-gray belly with dark square blotches. In the panhandle juveniles and adults look alike, however, in the peninsula adults might be yellow to gray with four dark longitudinal stripes, sometimes retaining the juvenile's dark dorsal blotches. The tongue is mostly black. The scales are weakly keeled, and there are 25-27 dorsal scale rows at midbody. The pupil is round.

drawing

A. Top of the head
B. Underside of the head (chin and throat)
C. Front (face view) of the head
D. Side of the head
E. Weekly keeled scales

Range: In Florida, the Rat Snake occurs in the panhandle east of the Apalachicola River and throughout the peninsula south to Key Largo. However, it does readily hybridize with the Gray Rat Snake (Pantherophis spiloides) in the panhandle.

Habitat: Commonly found near pinelands, hardwood hammocks, swamps, marshes, prairies, agricultural fields, and residential areas.

snake

snake

snake

rat snake

snake

snake

Comments: HARMLESS (Non-Venomous) The Eastern Rat Snake is primarily active at night. It is both a terrestrial burrower and an extremely good climber. It is found under rocks and boards, and in trees under bark and within knot holes and palm fronds. As its common name implies, this snake feeds voraciously on rodents. Its diet also includes lizards, frogs, and birds and their eggs. Unfortunately, it will eat young chickens and chicks, which is the source of one of its common names, 'chicken snake'. It lays eggs. Breeding occurs from April-July; 5-27 eggs are laid during the summer, and newborns hatch from July-September.

Comparison with other species: Adult Gray Ratsnakes (Pantherophis spiloides) look like the juvenile stage and are found west of the Apalachicola River. Juvenile Eastern Cornsnakes (Pantherophis guttatus) are brownish with a checkerboard patterned belly.

rat snake

snake

rat snake

Back to Top | Back to List of Florida's Snakes Page