Black Rat Snake (Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta)

Description: A large shiny black snake with a white chin and throat. Young rat snakes are patterned with dark blotches on a gray background, and traces of this juvenile coloration are often visible in adult specimens. This is Michigan's largest snake. Adult length: 3.5 to 8 feet.

Black Rat Snake
MSU herpetologist Jim Harding indicates this Black Rat Snake is in "pre-shed mode," which explains the gray/blue eyes.

Habitat and Habits: Rat snakes live in or near woodlands, often near water. They climb well, and often enter barns and abandoned buildings in search of rodents, a favorite food. When approached they may hold perfectly still, perhaps trying to escape notice. If cornered or grabbed these snakes may hiss and strike, but are non venomous and harmless to humans.

Reproduction: In early summer the females deposit 6 to 24 eggs under rotted wood or other cover. The young hatch in about 60 days.

Range and Status: Black Rat Snakes occur in the southern half of the Lower Peninsula, but are rare and declining. They are listed as a "species of special concern" by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and are protected by state law.

Black Rat Snake
Photo © Jim Harding