June 25, 2012 - Black Rat Snake Sightings

Notes on the Black Rat Snake, a common Johns Creek species.

Black Rat Snakes (Pantherophis obselota obselota) are the largest snake in the Johns Creek area and are one of the most commonly seen species. Growing up to seven feet in length, these critters are capable of consuming prey as large as Grey Squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) and Blue Jays (Cyanocitta cristata). Though most snakes are trending towards crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk), if not fully nocturnal, habits by this time of year, we have seen a number of these active during the heat of the day recently.

This little guy turned up recently when we were having some pressure washing work done. The strong vibrations from the machinery no doubt caused him to seek safer surroundings. Ironically, that led to him being observed by the workers. By the time I got there, he had snuggled down into the root ball of a shrub to hide. I pulled him out for a few photos and placed him a little closer to the forest.

This big guy was seen crossing the driveway by a field trip group. Black Rat Snakes are frequent victims of cars, and as such we moved him well away from the road before releasing him. Though this is a “big” snake by most people's measure, this is actually a somewhat small adult.

Note that the juvenile snake has a bold grey and black pattern, whereas the adults are clad in more-or-less uniform black (portions of the pattern may be visible). This, the thinking goes, allows the young to be better camouflaged from predators, while the adults (who have fewer predators) adopt the black coloration which will help them to thermo-regulate more effectively. This is especially important for an snake that often lives in forests, where basking opportunities are limited.

I have recently rearranged some of the habitats in the Native Animal Exhibit, and we have our Black Rat Snake on display. Come on out to Autrey Mill Nature Preserve and check him out, or keep an eye out for our next Snakes of Johns Creek program.

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Ben Pitman June 26, 2012 at 04:32 PM
Oops. I posted the wrong version of my entry. When I originally wrote the blog, I thought I would use a photo of the snake found crossing the road. I later found that none of these photos were suitable and forgot to update the entry . The adult pictured is our captive specimen. Sorry for the mistake!
Verron Federation April 15, 2014 at 10:30 AM
We have experienced more water snake calls being mistaken or misidentified as copperheads than black rat snakes. Please remember that snakes are Mother Nature's rat control (rodent control) team. If you throw off the balance by eradicating the snakes you will need to call us for rat control. If you need help with rats please visit : http://rattrapping.biz


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