Thursday, May 17, 2012

Black Rat Snake

I don’t post every one of my snake encounters, but I always take pictures.  Besides having a basic liking of snakes, I feel they have an important role in my overall management efforts.  I try to manage for healthy plant and animal communities.  I’ve always believed that an indicator of ecosystem health is its ability to support higher level predators.  The snake would not survive if the plant and lower animal base was not able to support the snake’s animal food supply. 

I found this Black Rat Snake searching a fallen log for potential prey items.  In this area, snakes are not normally considered top of the line predators.  There are still plenty of animals that would make a quick meal of this guy.  I assign importance to the snake population because that’s about the highest order predator that can sustain its existence totally within the Blue Jay Barrens Boundaries.  My small property can’t begin to sustain larger predators such as Coyotes, Hawks or Owls that may hunt over many square miles.  Individual Raccoons or Skunks may be able to live out their lives here, but there’s not enough area to maintain a viable population.  In making management decisions, I concentrate on those species that will most benefit by my activities.  Snakes fit neatly into that category. 

The snake checked out the entrance to every hole in the log.  Most of my Black Rat Snake encounters are around my house or barn, so I really enjoyed watching one in a more natural setting.

Failing to find any signs of possible prey, it continued its journey along the log.

At one point it crossed over and continued back along the other side.  Visibility of a light banded pattern is enhanced as the snake stretches its body across the log.  This pattern is the best long distance method of distinguishing the Black Rat Snake from the solid black Black Racer.  For some reason, many people prefer to make their identifications from a distance.

I wasn’t luck enough to witness the capture of prey.  After watching the snake unsuccessfully search both sides of the log, I moved on and left it to its hunt.


  1. I have only seen garter snakes in my gardens. That snake looks like a stick. I too believe that snakes and frogs are good indicators of garden/ecosystem health

  2. Hi Mary. Black Rat Snakes are the ones I most often see here. I'm always seeing sticks and thinking snakes.