Monday, June 13, 2016

Young Black Rat Snake

Black Rat Snakes were not particularly common when we first moved to this property 30+ years ago.  After a few years, snakes took up residence in our barn, garage and attic.  From then on, encounters with adult Black Rat Snakes became common.  It’s just been in the last couple of years that I have begun to regularly see youngsters.

I found this young snake perched on a leaning stake intended to hold up the side of a brush pile.  From this position, the snake had nowhere to go.  I think it was contemplating its next move as I arrived.

Young Black Rat Snakes have an overall grayish coloration decorated with a row of brown patches running the length of the back.  A hatchling leaves the egg with a body length of about one foot.  The pattern is most pronounced in the newly hatched specimens, but is slowly masked by dark pigment that develops as the snake ages.  At maturity, around four years of age, the snake will be about five feet long and predominantly black.  This individual measured at about 26 inches long.

Almost every young Black Rat Snake that I find seems to have a distinctive bulge of a recently swallow meal.  I always picture a mouse inside the bulge, but it could just as easily be some other small mammal, bird, reptile or amphibian.

After a moment of watching me take its picture, the snake turned around and headed down into the brush pile.  Somewhere in that mass of branches is probably where the cause of the snake’s bulge came from.

I found it interesting that as I entered the garage just minutes from having my young snake encounter, I came upon an adult Black Rat Snake patrolling the storage area in search of a tasty rodent meal.  This could easily be a parent of the youngster outside.

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