A closer look at the black rat snake

by Tammy McCormack. 0 Comments

I plan to write a weekly column to help people understand and to be aware of nuisance wildlife and snake problems around the home, office or wherever you are at the time you may encounter a problem or just want to observe and enjoy nature's balance with us.

Let me begin with snakes. There are 27 species of snake in Maryland. However, there are only a few snakes that we may encounter here locally in Frederick County. Each week I will write about a certain snake species and wildlife.

This week we will begin with the black rat snake.

The black rat snake is a beautiful constrictor. It constricts its prey by wrapping its body around the prey tightly so as to suffocate it before eating. Snakes eat their prey whole.

However, the black rat snake's saliva starts to break down the process as the prey is being swallowed to allow for easier digestion. The black rat snake is a very popular species that is often encountered here in Frederick County more than other snake species.

The black rat snake emerges from hibernation in spring and it usually will shed its skin within the first week of emerging and that's when they begin to seek its first meal.

Black rat snakes are also ready to mate at this time. The snakes are egg layers they will lay eggs in mid-spring and young are born around June. This process begins again mid-summer and young are born in the late-fall around October.

Baby black snakes are born with gray and white bands with a checkered underbelly. As they grow older they become solid black with a white underbelly.

The black rat snake can reach a length of more than 6 feet. They are very active from spring until summer during the day, but they become more active at night from summer to fall due to the hot weather.

Black rat snakes are excellent climbers and they will eat birds, mice, rats and even bird eggs. They will bite and musk if they are cornered and will whip their tail in defense, like a rattlesnake.

This snake species is often found around farms, barns, sheds, under long rooted trees and logs. If you encounter this snake around your home it is best to leave them alone they mean no harm. Perhaps you have a chipmunk, bird nest or rodent issue for this is why they are there looking for food.

If you find a skin in your home, even up in the attic, it is likely from the black rat snake, for they are excellent climbers. The black rat snake is a harmless snake they are not poisonous.

We will continue with more next week about the black rat snake and also the Corn Snake.

Please post your comments below. If you have a question I can possibly find out the information you are seeking to help. Until next time ...

Tammy McCormack is a professional snake trapper. She writes a regular column for fredericknewspost.com.

Leave a Reply