Gray Rat Snake
Scientific name: Pantherophis spiloides (DUMÉRIL, BIBRON & DUMÉRIL 1854)
* Currently accepted name
* scientific names used through time
- Elaphis spiloides – DUMÉRIL, BIBRON & DUMÉRIL 1854
- Elaphis holbrookii – DUMÉRIL, BIBRON & DUMÉRIL 1854 (fide BURBRINK 2000)
- 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 confinis – BARBOUR & CARR 1940
- Elaphe obsoleta – BARBOUR & CARR 1940
- Elaphe obsoleta spiloides – CONANT 1958
- Pantherophis obsoletus – UTIGER ET AL. 2000
- Elaphe spiloides – BURBRINK 2001
- Pantherophis obsoletus spiloides – SCHMIDT & KUNZ 2005
- Scotophis spiloides – COLLINS & TAGGART 2008
Description: Average adult size is 36-72 inches (91.4-182.8 cm), record is 84.25 inches (213.9 cm). Juveniles and adults are gray with dark blotches. The belly is sandy-gray with dark square blotches. The underside of the tail typically has 2 dark stripes. The scales are weakly keeled, and there are 25-27 dorsal scale rows at midbody. The pupil is round.
A. Side of the head
B. Front (face view) of the head
C. Elongated scales below the tail (subcaudal scales) are typically divided
D. Top of the head
E. Underside of the head (chin and throat)
F. Weekly keeled scales
Range: In Florida, the Gray Rat Snake occurs in the panhandle west of the Apalachicola River. However, it does readily hybridize with the Eastern Rat Snake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis) in the area.
Habitat: Commonly found near pinelands, hardwood hammocks, cypress strands, swamps, marshes, prairies, agricultural fields, and residential areas.
Comments: HARMLESS (Non-Venomous) The Gray Rat Snake is primarily active at night. It is both a terrestrial borrower and extremely good climber. It is found under rocks and boards, and in trees under bark and within knot holes and palm fronds. It feeds on lizards, frogs, rodents, and birds and their eggs.
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: The Eastern Rat Snake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis) looks like the Gray Rat Snake as both juvenile and adults in the panhandle, however adults in peninsular Florida might be yellow to gray with four dark longitudinal stripes, sometimes retaining the juvenile's dark dorsal blotches. The juvenile Eastern Corn Snake (Pantherophis guttatus) is brownish with a checkerboard patterned belly.