Fun Eastern Rat Snake Facts For Kids

Moumita Dutta
Jan 31, 2024 By Moumita Dutta
Originally Published on Aug 05, 2021
Edited by Monisha Kochhar
Fact-checked by Ankit Shinde
Eastern Rat Snake facts are very interesting for snake lovers.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 8.1 Min

Is reading about snakes your favorite pastime? Then you should definitely read about the eastern rat snakes (Pantherophis alleghaniensis). Rat snakes belong to the family of large non-venomous snakes. This species is native to North America and is commonly spotted all over the USA but is rare in Virginia. These harmless snakes are very adaptable to a large number of habitats but prefer farmlands, wetlands, thickets, and hardwood forests. They are also spotted in abandoned urban areas in search of rodents. They are non-venomous and thus kill their prey by constricting them. Their distribution is scattered in the Northern regions and more common in the southern regions of the country. Their preference for habitat also depends on their location. You can identify any Rat snake including the Eastern Rat snakes, by weekly keeled scales on their body and their beautiful patterns and coloration. They also love preying on other small reptiles like lizards and small amphibians like frogs. These Eastern Rat snakes are believed to have a stable population and are very common. To know more about these snakes, please keep reading ahead.

If you like reading about various reptiles from the animal kingdom, also check out the hognose snake and Timber Rattlesnake.


Eastern Rat Snake Interesting Facts

What type of animal is an eastern rat snake?

The eastern Rat snake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis) is a species of rat snake from the Colubridae family.

What class of animal does an eastern rat snake belong to?

The eastern ratsnake or the black rat snake belongs to the class of reptilia.

How many eastern rat snakes are there in the world?

Eastern ratsnakes are quite common throughout the United States and so are unprotected. They are also heavily understudied so their exact population is not known.

Where does an eastern rat snake live?

Eastern ratsnakes are mostly found living in woodlands, farmlands, suburban areas, fields among others throughout the United States. They are very commonly spotted from Florida to Connecticut to South Carolina and Oklahoma to Kansas.

What is an eastern rat snake's habitat?

Eastern ratsnakes are found in a wide variety of habitats including forest wetlands, thickets, fields, farmland, and hardwood forest. These snakes thrive in edge habitats. Being an arboreal species of Rat snakes they can climb into houses undetected. They prefer living in small, cozy dark spots as their habitat, especially in winters.

Who do eastern rat snakes live with?

The eastern ratsnake or the black rat snake are solitary predators and don't live together. During winter, however, they gather together to hibernate, sometimes even with other species like the Copperhead and rattlesnakes.

How long does an eastern rat snake live?

In general, ratsnakes have a lifespan of 10-15 years and the individual species lifespan vary with their location and environment. In captivity, a Rat snake with proper food and care, live over 30 years.

How do they reproduce?

In black Rat snakes or eastern Ratsnakes, males reach sexual maturity earlier at the age of around seven years whereas females are fully mature at nine years of age. Adult males travel sometimes a little in search of a potential female to mate during the breeding season from May through June. Females lay their eggs in a hidden spot in clutches of 5-19. The females utilize one-third of their mass for laying the eggs and the number of eggs directly depends on the length of the female. The eggs take about 37-51 days to hatch and the females leave the juveniles on their own.

What is their conservation status?

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has not listed the eastern rat snake in the Red List of Threatened species. Their conservation status is stable throughout its distribution in North America. These harmless snakes might lose this status soon as they have been mistreated and killed by frightened humans.

Eastern Rat Snake Fun Facts 

What do eastern rat snakes look like?

The eastern Ratsnakes species are also known as the eastern black Rat snake. Both males and females have the same coloration of shiny black scales on the back and creamy or white throat and chin. They often display a unique black and white checkered pattern on their belly which is mostly visible when their scales are stretched after a prey. They have a uniform slate-gray tail and keeled scales on their dorsal region that are arranged in rows of 23-27. Even though the ventral patterns are the same, a juvenile eastern Rat snake can be differentiated from an adult eastern Rat snake by its dark dorsal blotches and grayish ground color. The juveniles also have a prominent black pupil with a white margin which is absent in the adults and juveniles are more vulnerable to predators like hawks, raccoons, foxes, great horned owls, and even other venomous snakes, yet they hunt in solitary and don't depend on any parental care.

Eastern Rat snakes are harmless and adorable snakes.

How cute are they?

The eastern ratsnakes can be considered cute and harmless as well. They are one of the largest species of rat snakes and are non-venomous in nature. It is commonly known as the black rat snake in North America. Their shiny, long, white, and black scaled body makes them quite attractive These snakes are not aggressive in nature. They mostly freeze or quickly slither away. These snakes are excellent predators and help to control the rodent population.

How do they communicate?

Snakes in general communicate through releasing chemicals called pheromones from their body, which gives them enough information like the other snake's age, gender, and others. They also have a forked tongue that they flick in and out to sense their surroundings.

How big is an eastern rat snake?

Eastern rat snake species are one of the largest non-venomous snake species. These snakes are much bigger than a few of the popular venomous snakes' species like the black mamba, rattlesnakes, and others. They are usually 3.5-7 ft (1-2.1 m) .

How fast can an eastern rat snake move?

Eastern rat snakes are great swimmers and climbers as they are also an arboreal species. Research shows that Rat snakes in general have a lightning-quick acceleration of 274 mps2. Their speed helps them chase their favorite small rodents.

How much does an eastern rat snake weigh?

Eastern rat snakes are on the larger side of its family of Colubridae. The adult eastern ratsnake weighs about 1.1- 4.9 lb (0.5-2.2 kg)

What are their male and female names of the species?

Eastern rat snakes being a snake species, don't have any specific term or name for their males and females. They are referred to as male eastern rat snakes and female eastern Rat Snakes.

What would you call a baby eastern rat snake?

Baby snakes, in general, are called snakelets in their juvenile stage and hatchlings when they are newborn babies.

What do they eat?

Eastern rat snakes are predatory animals. The eastern rat snake diet includes primarily small rodents the most but they also hunt birds, bird eggs, small amphibians like frogs, and other smaller reptiles. As they are non-venomous, they use their body by wrapping the prey and constricts them to death and then their double-jointed jaws to swallow them.

Are they aggressive?

No, the eastern rat snakes are not an aggressive snake species. These North American snakes when threatened, instead of attacking, release a foul-smelling musk that imitates the taste of poison. There have been very rare cases of attacks by the eastern rat snake on humans, as these snakes are quite timid. On sensing danger, they freeze or simply slither away from the site of the said danger from predators.

The eastern rat snake bite is not deadly, but it is painful and swelling. Some species are known to have a mild venom which is quite mild in comparison to humans. They sometimes climb into human households and are often found in attics and dryer vents. To remove such a rogue snake from your house or dryer vents, it is advised to take help from professionals as these snakes have great strength and super fast speed.

Would they make a good pet?

Yes, the eastern rat snake actually makes a great pet. These American snakes are very easy to take care of and handle as they prey on rodents all their life. Juveniles take on small pinkie mice and adults can easily prey on a large rat. They have a docile nature and are capable of living in a variety of habitats in different temperatures and conditions. They only require a glass or plastic enclosure long enough for their body to stretch out. These snakes are also very useful as pets, as they prey on rodents, they are very good for controlling the rodents in our household and keep the house rodent-free.

Did you know...

The eastern rat snake or the black rat snake do not simply hibernate but go through a process of brumation, where most of the body sleeps and only allows basic body functions like drinking water and more.

The female eastern ratsnake can produce up to two batches of eggs in a year.

At times, rat snakes mimic the rattlesnakes and fools the predator to be venomous.

Eastern rat snakes are diurnal (active during the daylight) in nature but only during spring and become nocturnal during summer.

The eastern ratsnake have subspecies like the black rat snake, the yellow rat snake, and more.

These eastern rat snakes are semi-arboreal i.e. they don't live on trees but they are climbers and climb high trees in search of bird's eggs.

What do eastern rat snakes do in winter?

Like all snakes, the eastern ratsnake also goes into hibernation being a cold-blooded reptile. This black snake is often seen coming together with other snakes of the same or a different species to hibernate together. They usually enter their den sometime around early to mid-November i.e. the late autumn.

What is another name for the eastern rat snake?

The eastern rat snakes are called by various names depending on their location. Some of their common names are pilot snake (they take shelter with other snake species), black pilot snake, eastern black ratsnakes, and Chicken snake (as love to prey on chicken eggs) in the northern regions. In the southern regions, they are called the Yellow rat snake (due to their unique coloration), and Everglade rat snakes.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other reptiles including black racer snake, or kingsnake.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our diamondback rattlesnake coloring pages.

Eastern Rat Snake Facts

What Did They Prey On?

Small rodents, birds, bird eggs

What Type of Animal were they?


Average Litter Size?


How Much Did They Weigh?

About 1.1- 4.9 lb (0.5-2.2 kg)

What habitat Do they Live In?

hardwood forests, forest wetlands, farmlands, isolated urban areas, open fields

Where Do They Live?

florida, Georgia, pennsylvania, vermont, new york, maryland, virginia, north, south carolina

How Long Were They?

3.5-7 ft (1-2.1 m)

How Tall Were They?








Scientific Name

Pantherophis alleghaniensis

What Do They Look Like?

Black and white checkered

Skin Type

Keeled scales

What Are Their Main Threats?

overkilling, loss of habitat, hawks, and other venomous snakes

What is their Conservation Status?

Least Concerned
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Written by Moumita Dutta

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

Moumita Dutta picture

Moumita DuttaBachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

A content writer and editor with a passion for sports, Moumita has honed her skills in producing compelling match reports and stories about sporting heroes. She holds a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management, Calcutta University, alongside a postgraduate diploma in Sports Management.

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