The red rat snake is a brightly colored snake that really catches one’s eye. This snake is also called the corn snake. The snake has the alternative name, corn snake, because farmers used to store corn in large containers, which attracted rodents to eat the corn. In turn, the corn snake or red rat snake could come and feed on the rodents.
Biology: The red rat snake is referred to by the scientific name, Pantherophis guttatus guttatus. This snake is a strikingly beautiful specimen. The snake has a brown skin with an orange tinged and a black and white underbelly. The skin also has markings known as saddles that are red with black borders. This snake really stands out in the brush, largely due to its bright red markings and the contrasting black.
Habitat: The red rat snake resides mainly in the southeastern portions of the United States. These snakes can be found as far north as New Jersey on down into Florida and have been seen as far west as the state of Texas. These snakes love to hide out in tall cornfields, trees, lots of brush and old abandoned out-buildings in the country. They love to live in higher elevated parts of the country as well. They can reside in the cold weather, although when it is colder outside, they will live down in rock ledges and around fallen trees, coming out during the warmer daylight hours to get some sun. When they hide out in the cold weather, they will eat less. During colder weather the male snakes will go through a time period called brumation, where they are apt to breed with the female red rat snake.
Behavior: Red rat snakes along with other species of rat snake are very good at acting quickly and getting out of spaces in a jiffy. If you have one of these snakes kept at home, be aware that if you do not have the lid placed on the container just right, this snake is one that can and will get lose. Out in the wild, they also move quickly. This enables them to catch their prey rather quickly. Most rat snakes are not thought to be venomous, but some really are. However, the fact that they are venomous is not deadly to humans since the red rat snake does not use its fangs to expel venom. These snakes use their bodies to constrict their food. Although they are not dangerous to humans, we are dangerous to them. Red rat snakes have similar color and markings as a copperhead and thus are mistakenly killed by humans. This has led to an undergrowth of the red rat snake because of the human’s wanting to get rid of any snake that resembles a copperhead.
Diet: Red rat snakes are known as nocturnal hunters and will eat small animals and birds. Although they love to hide out on the ground, they are also able to move very well up trees to get to birds. However, birds are not the only food they desire. These snakes also love to eat different kinds of fish and frogs. Most of the time, the red rat snake will kill their prey before they swallow it whole, but sometimes they swallow live prey also.
Reproductive: The red rat snake is a snake that breeds very easily, as long as you get the snake’s core body temperature down to about 60 degrees. Take the snake to a cooler location away from everything else for a couple of months, until ready to breed. After this cooling period expires, the male snake is ready to go. He sends out his chemical signals to bring the female red rat snake closer. The female is impregnated and if she is in ovulation, the eggs are fertilized. The average female red rat snake will lay anywhere from 12 to 25 eggs in one sitting. The female will look for a protected and warm location to lay her eggs. After these eggs are laid, the female red rat snake will not attend to her eggs. She will leave the nest and will not return. The eggs will hatch and the new red rat snake babies will be approximately 4 to 5 inches long.
Below are some other species of snake that may look like a Red Rat Snake (Corn Snake):
Southern Hognose Snake
Yellow Rat Snake
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