Black Rat Snake
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Online Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of Connecticut

Black Rat Snake - Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta


This is the largest snake in Connecticut, with adults measuring up to 6 feet (180 cm), with record lengths over 8 feet (240 cm). Amazingly, in Connecticut dorsal coloration is somewhat variable in adults. Most adults are a uniform dark brown or black, with any dorsal pattern obscured. However, some individuals retain a juvenile pattern into adulthood and are silvery gray with black saddles that more-or-less fuse together, though not completely. Overall body shape is different from any other snake in Connecticut in that, if an imaginary section is cut, the cross section would resemble a loaf of bread. The ventral and ventrolateral sides of the snake are flat and somewhat squared, while the dorsum is rounded. Hatchlings are silvery gray with black or dark brown saddle-shaped blotches on the back. Scales are keeled.



Lays 9 to 20 eggs in moist soil, usually under a rock or rotting log. Eggs hatch in about 2 months.



Rocky hillsides and even farmland are used by this species. It is an excellent climber and may be found in trees, or high in a barn.



Feeds on a variety of prey. Birds, bird eggs, and mammals make up the bulk of the diet. However, smaller snakes and even amphibians may be eaten.



As currently recognized, this subspecies is found from Nebraska east to the Atlantic coast of North Carolina, south to northern Georgia, and north to Ontario. Found in all New England states except Maine and New Hampshire. Absent from the northeastern corner of Connecticut.



Not federally protected. Connecticut does protect this species by enforcing possession limits and collecting seasons. Other states in New England list the species as threatened or endangered.



Current studies indicate that the subspecies Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta is in fact 3 distinct species. Nomenclature changes will result, likely forcing state conservation officials to revise current regulations.



Conant, R. and J.T. Collins. 1991. A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians: Eastern/Central North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 450 pp.

Klemens, M.W. 1993. Amphibians and Reptiles of Connecticut and Adjacent Regions. Hartford, CT: State Geological and Natural History Survey of Connecticut Bulletin 112. 318 pp.



Text by Gregory J. Watkins-Colwell.
Photographs © Gregory J. Watkins-Colwell. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Animals featured on this page are from Connecticut.