There are many types of rat snakes in the United States, and some of those are found in the wild in Florida. Rat snakes in Florida have a lush place to live that’s full of wildlife to eat. Some rat snakes are in one specific part of the state, and others have a habitat that includes the entire state. In this article we’re going to learn more about Florida’s rat snake species.
What are rat snakes?
Rat snakes are non-venomous snakes that feed mostly on rats, hence the name. However, they can also eat a number of other small animals that are found in abundance in the wild. These snakes are not a danger to people, and they are commonly owned as pets and raised in captivity. All rat snakes can swim, and all have round pupils.
5 Types of rat snakes in Florida
The 5 kinds of rat snakes found in Florida are corn snakes, yellow rat snakes, gray rat snakes, Everglades rat snake, and eastern rat snakes.
1. Corn snake
Scientific name: Pantherophis guttatus
The corn snake, sometimes referred to as the red rat snake, is found all over Florida from the panhandle down to the tip of the peninsula. This variety is a climbing species. The average snake can grow up to 30″ to 48″ long, but there are some that reach 72″. The ones that grow in the Keys tend to be smaller than average. This variety of rat snake comes in various colors, but the average is a yellow-tan color to orange. It often has blotches of red on its back, dark marks on the belly and the top of the head has a V.
This snake breeds from April through June. It lays anywhere from three to 40 eggs in the summer. They certainly eat rats, but they can also eat mice, birds, lizards and eggs. Corn snakes have no fangs or venom and have to kill their prey with constriction. They can often be found in rocky areas, in the mangrove forests and a number of other habitats, but are often found in urban areas as well.
Their numbers have been threatened recently, but not from habitat loss. They are often harvested from the wild and get hit by cars. The rainy climate of Florida can also harm them by filling their habitat with water and making it harder to find prey.
2. Yellow rat snake
Scientific name: Elaphe obsoleta quadrivittata
The yellow rat snake lives on the peninsula of Florida. This variety has a medium-yellow color that can also be orange-yellow and may have very light stripes. The babies are gray with darker blotches. They are semi-arboreal and can live much of their time in trees. They can often be found in live oaks and magnolia trees.
The yellow variety can interbreed with the black variety, and this leads to offspring that are green. They tend to freeze when they see danger, and this leads to many of them being killed on the road. They are relatively slow snakes that can easily be caught and kept as a pet for their beautiful coloring.
When this snake is disturbed, it will rapidly shake its tail. If there are dry leaves around, this allows the sound to be mistaken for the rattle of a rattlesnake. This species tends to be solitary until it’s time to mate.
3. Gray rat snake
Scientific name: Pantherophis spiloides
The gray rat snake is found in the panhandle of Florida. They may bite in self-defense if cornered, but they are generally not harmful to humans or to pets. They are not aggressive animals and try to avoid both people and pets.
This variety grows to be about 42″ to 72″ long, though the largest of them was found to be 84″. They are pale gray in color and have blotches of darker gray on their backs. Their bellies are a softer tan-gray with darker blotches. They can often be found in cypress strands, pine forests, marshes, swamps and fields of crops.
They eat a number of different rodents, lizards, birds, frogs and eggs. When they eat larger prey, they are killed through constriction. However, when the prey is small, these snakes will simply swallow the animal alive.
4. Everglades rat snake
Scientific name: Elaphe obsoleta rossalleni
The Everglades rat snake has striking colors, black pupils with red eyes, and a beautiful overall pattern. They have striking black ovals set against a dark-orange background. They are very common in Florida and their name comes from the Everglades area in southern Florida. However, they can be found in other areas of the state.
They’re common in grassy areas, in shrubs alongside bodies of water and in trees. They are often found in the crevices between rocks. Everglades rat snakes swim well and often retreat into the water when threatened. They can be aggressive in the wild, but in captivity they are docile. These snakes are also highly effective burrowers.
This rat snake variety lays clutches of seven to 27 eggs. They tend to hatch in the summer in either July or September. They are known as excellent escape artists, so their cages need to be reinforced to ensure that they can’t get out, if you choose to own one as a pet.
5. Eastern rat snake
Scientific name: Pantherophis alleghaniensis
Sometimes called the black rat snake, the eastern rat snake is a larger snake that averages between 3.5′ and 7′ long. Its head is wider than the rest of its body. The black color is glassy and may have tiny splotches of white in between the scales.
The belly is light-colored, and the chin and throat are white. They swim and climb well, and they will generally run from danger instead of striking at it. Eastern rat snakes eat small animals like amphibians, birds and rodents. Larger rat snakes may take larger prey.
When this snake is threatened, it releases a strong, foul odor. This odor is similar to the taste of poison, so many animals will avoid it. They live in many suburban areas as well as in forests and farm fields. In the wild, they are vulnerable to birds of prey and large snakes. Males fight for mating rights. When they lay eggs in July, there can be as many as 24 eggs.