What pops up in your mind when you hear ‘rat snake’? Is it a rattlesnake? Or a snake that looks like a rat? Not really. These constrictors were named so because of their food habits. They are found all across the Northern Hemisphere and vary in size and color. Each of these species has its own specific characteristics which can be elaborated in a wide manner. However, that would take the time, which you definitely don’t have. So, we will go through some basic facts about the rat snake. It’s quite possible that while going through this article, you come across a few facts that you were unaware of.
Welcome To The World Of Rat Snake
Rat snakes belong to the family Colubridae, subfamily Colubrinae. Some of the other species belonging to the same group are king snakes, milk snakes, and few others. Rat snakes are classified into two main groups.
- Old World Rat Snakes (Eastern Hemisphere)
- New World Rat Snakes (Western Hemisphere)
Though Rat snakes were believed to be non-venomous, recent studies have shown that few of the Old World Rat Snakes used to possess venom. However, the amount is negligible enough to kill a human being.
Specifications Of Rat Snakes
Rat snakes are medium to large-sized constrictors and primarily feeds on rodents and birds. Their length varies from 61-180 cm and their average lifespan is up to 15 years. The lifespan grows in captivity and varies from 20-30 years. They undergo hibernation every year and the females lay up to 30 eggs at a time, although the number varies among different sub-species.
Rat snakes are known to kill their prey by constriction. Hence, they target comparatively small and weaker animals for feeding. The menu consists mainly of rodents, frogs, birds, and lizards. Although few of the rat snakes have been found venomous, yet they possess no threat to human beings. However, rat snakes have been found to kill chicken also. They prefer to hunt in the night when they find their prey most vulnerable.
Few Interesting Facts About Them
Some of these creatures are extremely fast tree climbers. This ability helps them to invade bird nests as well as to defend themselves from any danger. Not only that, but many of them are great swimmers also.
Earlier, both New World and Old World rat snakes belonged to the genus ‘Elaphe’. However, recent studies with the classification of DNA have challenged the fact. Hence, many species are getting transferred to different genera.
Few of the species are aggressive and may charge head-on if they sense somebody close. Others are mainly shy and upon sensing danger, freezes.
The male snakes show a strange physical stature of the twisted body with tails intertwined. Rigley in 1971 observed this and now it’s popularly known as combat dance.
Popularity Of Rat Snake Among Farmers
Rat snakes are typically popular among farmers, as they help to kill the rodents and save the crops. They also help to maintain the eco-system and benefit mankind by killing the germ carriers. One of the popular rat snakes among farmers is the corn snake, as they are friendly and easy to handle. Some of the other rat snakes popular among farmers and pet owners are Yellow Rat snake, Texas Rat snake, Everglade Rat snake, and Gray Rat snake.