Rat Snakes species profile.
Rat snakes (genus Elaphe) are found worldwide, North American representatives of this clan range from southern Canada, southward into Mexico. They are found as far west as Colorado and east to the Atlantic coast. Members of this group can become quite large, with the common rat snake Elaphe obselta, sometimes reaching over 8 feet in length.
Rat snakes can have stripes, blotches, or a combination of stripes and blotches; even unicolored species can be found. Rat snakes also have several representatives that are amelanistic (lacking black pigment) or leucistic (white coloration with blue eyes).
Housing for the rat snake group can be simple. Cages should be escape-proof, roomy and well-ventilated. Hide boxes are appreciated by most forms. Substrates that work well include pine shavings, newsprint, indoor/outdoor carpeting or paper toweling. These animals do best with ventral heating–provide a heater on the bottom of one side of the cage setting up a temperature range from which the animal can select its preferred body temperature.
These snakes can be maintained on adult mice or, as their name implies, rats.
Photo: Dick Bartlett