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Care Sheet Black Rat Snake

Scientific Name
Pantherophis obsoletus obsoletus
Other Common names
Alleghany black snake, black chicken snake, black Coluber, black pilot snake, black ratsnake
chicken snake, Black Snake, mountain black snake, mountain pilot snake, pilot, Pilot Black snake
rat snake, rusty black snake, scaly black snake, cow snake, schwartze schlange, sleepy John, whitethroated racer
Range
Eastern and Central United States. In Canada it is found in lower Ontario. It is found in northeast
United States, in particular New Jersey(northern), New York(eastern) and Vermont(southern).
Habitat
Prefers heavily wooded areas and is known for having excellent climbing ability, including the
ability to climb the trunk of large mature trees without the aid of branches. The black rat snake is a
competent swimmer but usually (not always) uses this ability only to travel to additional hunting
territory.
Size
120 to 180cm (48 72)
Life Expectancy
20+ Years
Captive Variants
Wild Type, Albino cinnamon, Albino Lemon Cowsucker, Albino Leucistic, Albino White Sided,
Amelanistic T+, Amelanistic T-, Calico, Brindle, Calico Cowsucker, Caramel Albino, Cinnamon,
Grape Albino, Hypomelanistic, Lavender, Lavender Albino, Lemon Cowsucker, Leucistic, Rusty,
Ultra Black, White Sided
(Some of these may be alternative names for the same variant)
Housing
Vivarium or RUB (plastic tubs) of appropriate size.
Dcor

Suitably large water bowl for them to drink and bathe

A minimum of 2 hides (1 in the cool end and 1 in the warm end)


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Climbing branches are advantageous but not essential
Substrate
Aspen, Beech chippings, Coco husk, Forest bark, Corn Cob, Newspaper
Temperature/Humidity
22C (72F) to 28C (82F)
Heating
Viv - Guarded Ceramic heater or heat mat
Tub - Heat mat
Use an appropriate thermostat for any heat source. Also use a digital thermometer to keep an eye on
the temps.
For ceramic heaters pulse proportional thermostat
For incandescent bulbs spots and Infra red bulbs use a dimming thermostat.
For mats, heater cable, heater tubes you can use any vivarium thermostat we recommend the mat
stat.
Feeding
Natural Diet: Bats, Birds & their eggs, Frogs, Hares, Insects, Lizards, Moles, Rabbits, Reptile Eggs,
Rodents, Squirrels and Weasels
Captivity: Mice, Rats, chicks, rabbits of appropriate size the odd egg can be offered as a treat.
Breeding
Mating takes place in late May and early June. The male snake wraps its tail around the female with
their vents nearly touching. The male then everts one of its sex organs, a hemipenis, into the female
sex organ, cloaca. The mating lasts anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. After five weeks
the female lays about 12 to 20 eggs, which are 3660 mm (1.4-2 in.) long by 20-26.5 mm (0.8-1.1
in.) wide. The eggs hatch about 65 to 70 days later in late August to early October. The hatchlings
are 2841 cm (11-16 in.) in total length, and they look like miniature fox snakes.
Comments
These snakes are a semi arboreal species who will hunt and even mate in trees but generally sleep
on the ground.
They are constrictors and active mainly at dawn and dusk.
Hatchlings are often a bit nippy but can normally be tamed easily with regular handling.
Juveniles are strongly patterned with brown blotches on a gray background (like miniature fox
snakes). Darkening occurs rapidly as they grow. Adults are glossy black above with white lips, chin,
and throat. Sometimes traces of the "obsolete" juvenile pattern are still discernible in the skin
between the scales, especially when stretched after a heavy meal.
They are capable of producing a foul smelling musk which they will release onto a predator if
picked up. They spread the musk with their tail in hopes of deterring the threat.
This species has previously been placed (and is still placed by many) in the genus Elaphe, as Elaphe
obsoleta. However, Utiger et al. found that Elaphe as broadly construed is paraphyletic, and placed
this species in the genus Pantherophis. In addition, because Pantherophis is masculine, the specific
epithet becomes the masculine obsoletus. The split of Pantherophis from Elaphe has been further
confirmed by additional phylogenetic studies.
John Gamesby

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