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Black Rat Snake

Scientific name: Pantherophis obsoletus

These non-venomous snakes are the largest that you will spot in New York. Adults range from 3.5 feet all the way to 7 feet!  As their name suggests, they are black with shiny scales, and a lighter belly. Their throat and chin are white. They are known as arboreal snakes as they are often found in trees, where they hunt their prey. In addition, they are known to be good swimmers.

Welcome these gentle snakes to your property as they provide valuable pest control. As their name indicates, they eat mice, rats, squirrels and more.

This type of snake is called a constrictor, as it will suffocate its prey to kill it before eating.

These are shy animals and will freeze when encountered.

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They eat everything from mice and voles to frogs, other snakes, lizards, eggs, and even songbirds.


They might be found on a rocky hillside,in woodlands or high up in a tree. They are excellent climbers.

Life Cycle

Mating takes place in late spring, resulting in 12-20 eggs being laid. They will incubate for about two months prior to hatching. In winter, snakes of different breeds will all den together. The black rat snake might live as long as 10-15 years in the wild.

Ecosystem Connections

They are eaten by many other animals, especially before they reach maturity. Birds of prey such as the red-tailed hawk and the owl will hunt this snake. But given the size, strength and agility of the black rat snake, it may end up in violent struggle where one or both animals die.

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