Eastern Black Rat Snake

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A home owner took the above photo of an eastern black rat snake climbing along the vinyl siding above the back door of their home. Eastern black rat snakes are excellent climbers and are often removed from living rooms, garages, attics and rooftops.

What does the eastern black rat snake look like?

As the name implies the eastern black rat snake is black on the sides and top of the back and whitish on the belly, under the throat and under the snout. They are slender yet strong and can reach lengths up to 72 inches however a few may be found a couple inches longer.

Juvenile eastern black rat snakes look very different then the adults. Juveniles have a pale grayish background with blackish or charcoal blotches along the back. This pattern blends as the juvenile ages, and eventually, it looks like the adults. Many Montgomery County residents frantically call pest control companies, exterminators and snake control experts because they mistake new born babies and juveniles for northern copperhead snakes.

Where is the eastern black rat snake found in Montgomery County?

The eastern black rat snake is one of the most common snakes in Montgomery County and can be found in Potomac, Chevy Chase, Silver Spring, Damascus, Gaithersburg, Germantown, Bethesda, Rockville, and Olney. This species is commonly removed from attics, crawlspaces, living rooms, kitchens, washrooms, garages, bedrooms, bathrooms, sheds, outbuildings, pools, ponds, barns, flowerbeds, and basements. They are excellent climbers and have to be seen climbing the side of homes and buildings.

What animals prey to the eastern black rat snake?

The coyote, birds of prey, raccoons, fox, opossums, other snakes, and large birds will eat the eastern black rat snake. Juveniles are at a higher risk of falling to a predator then the adults.

Is the eastern black rat snake venomous?

The eastern black rat snake is not venomous. This is a spy species however if you attempt to pick it up you will get bit. If you are bitten wash the area out very well and watch it for redness or swelling in case, you have a reaction to the bacteria in the snake’s mouth. If you fell ill or if the bit area looks red and swollen seek medical help.

What does the eastern black rat snake eat?

The eastern black rat snake feeds on mice, voles, small rats, birds, baby birds, bird eggs, other snakes, chipmunks, and moles. Montgomery County residents often report seeing the eastern black rat snake feeding on baby birds or bird eggs or birds that are nesting on their house or in a backyard tree. They are constrictors and kill their prey by squeezing all the air out of their body and consuming the prey whole. If they feed on bird eggs, then they will not squeeze it but just swallow it whole.

What are the habits of the eastern black rat snake?

The male eastern black rat snake is typically longer and heavier then the female, however, in most other species, it’s the opposite. They are excellent climbers and are known to climb the side of homes. In the hot months of summer, this species is most active in the evening just as the sun is setting and periods through the night as well as the early morning as the sun is rising. However during spring and fall when the night time temperatures are colder the eastern black rat snake will be most active during the daytime.

What are the hibernation habits of the eastern black rat snake?

The eastern black rat snake hibernates in logs, tree stumps, attics, wall cavities, basements, foundations of homes and buildings, and any other place that is secluded yet maintains protection against the winter temperatures. In the Montgomery County area, hibernation begins in October or early November depending on temperatures. Hibernation ends in late March or early April. The eastern black rat snake will hibernate with other snakes of the same species or different species.

What are the reproduction habits of the eastern black rat snake?

The male Eastern Black rat snake emerges from hibernation shortly before the females. As the females emerge the males lay in wait to mate with them. The females will lay between 5 and 30 creamy whitish eggs in June or July. Eggs are laid in firewood piles, under trash, under wood piles, under rocks, in logs, in tree stumps, in basements, and in the foundation of homes or buildings. In August or September the eggs hatch. Newborn babies can double their size by feeding as often as possible to prepare for the winter hibernation. Males are sexually mature at around seven years and females around nine years.

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