The gray ratsnake or gray rat snake (Pantherophis spiloides), also commonly known as the central ratsnake, chicken snake, midland ratsnake, or pilot black snake, is a species of nonvenomous snake in the genus Pantherophis in the subfamily Colubrinae. The gray ratsnake is one of about ten species within the American ratsnake genus Pantherophis.
A medium to large serpent, the gray ratsnake typically reaches an adult size of 99183 cm (3.256.00 ft) total length (including tail); however, the record is 247 cm (8.10 ft) for a captive specimen at the Ridley 4-H Center in Tennessee. [ citation needed ] Unlike other Pantherophis , whose conspicuous juvenile pattern fades into adulthood, the gray ratsnake in the southern part of its range does not undergo drastic ontogenetic changes in color or markings.
Instead, it retains the juvenile pattern of dark elongate dorsal blotches separated by four, or more, pale gray body scales, a light gray crown with dark striping that forms an anteriorly facing spearpoint, and a solid band which covers the eyes and extends rearward to the posterior upper labial scales. However, in the northern part of its range it is black in adulthood, like P. alleghaniensis and P. obsoletus . The venter is usually off-white or pale gray with darker irregular blotches, and a double row of black spots behind the divided anal plate of the vent.
Native to North America, Pantherophis spiloides is commonly found in the forests of the eastern and central United States. It occurs relatively continuously throughout the major part of the eastern half of the United States, along the western edge of the Appalachian Mountains , from southwestern New England to the Gulf of Mexico , westward to the Mississippi River , and northward from northern Louisiana to southwestern Wisconsin . An agile climber,  the gray ratsnake is at home from the ground to the tree tops in many types of hardwood forest and cypress stands, along tree-lined streams and fields, and even around barns and sheds in close proximity to people.
Within its range, almost any environment rich in rodents, and vertical escape options, proves a suitable habitat for the gray ratsnake. The snake will also rattle its tail against whatever it is lying on, making an audible buzzing sound. The gray ratsnake will defend itself by raising its head and bluffing a strike.
If handled, it will musk a victim by releasing the foul-smelling contents of its cloaca , and will bite if necessary. Erptologie gnrale ou histoire naturelle complte des reptiles. ^ Gray Ratsnake , Ontario Nature ^ a b c d e f Ontario Wildlife Series video ^ Gray ratsnake, Michigan Department of Natural Resources ^ Gray ratsnake, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources ^ Canada Species At Risk Act ^ Georgia Wildlife.org Keeping Georgia Wildlife as Pets .
How can you tell a rat snake from a copperhead?
A copperhead snake has a light tan or brownish body with dark or black hourglass figures on them and grows 2 to 3 feet long. Black rat snakes have shiny black scales on their backs, a lighter underside and white throats and chins. Adult rat snakes grow from 3 1/2 feet to 7 feet long.
Is gray rat snake poisonous?
The gray rat snake (Pantherophis spiloides) has long been considered to be non-venomous, but now studies show that some Old World species do possess a small amount of venom but the dose is so small, it poses no threat to humans.
Can copperhead snakes be gray?
Copperheads get their name, unsurprisingly, from their bronze-hued heads. These large snakes, found through the southern and eastern United States, have bodies that range from tan to copper to gray, with characteristic hourglass-shaped stripes.
How do you identify a gray rat snake?
Gray rat snakes are dark to light gray with darker gray or brown blotches. The juveniles of all subspecies resemble the gray rat. The belly is whitish in color near the head and becomes checkered or mottled toward the tail.
First, we’ll take a look at Eastern Copperheads and point out their most identifying characteristics. Copperheads are born alive and with the exception of the tail tip, they are colored and patterned the same as adults. The following four photographs are of baby/juvenile Eastern Copperheads. Note the sulfur yellow colored tail tip. The yellow tail tip is used as a lure for frogs, lizards and other prey items. As the snake ages the bright tail tip fades. The only other Virginia snake with a bright yellowish to yellowish green tail tip is the venomous eastern cottonmouth.
All harmless snakes in Virginia have round pupils and lack the heat sensing pits. Another characteristic of all Virginia’s venomous snakes is the single row of scales on the underside of the tail after the anal plate (vent).
Around late August to mid October depending on the temperatures, Eastern Ratsnakes look for a nice warm place to wait out the upcoming winter. Juvenile Northern Black Racers usually do not seek winter refuge in human occupied dwellings. This is completely opposite of the pattern found on the copperhead (wide on the sides and narrow near the back bone).
Some adult Northern Watersnakes retain a strong, distinct juvenile pattern while others become a uniformed brown. In an effort to ward off predators these snakes will puff-up, hiss loudly, spread their neck and strike with the mouth closed. Eastern hognose snakes prefer sandy soil and primarily feed on toads.
Venomous Eastern CopperheadHarmless Red CornsnakeEastern Copperhead vs. Northern Mole Kingsnake Juvenile Northern Mole Kingsnakes have a strong pattern that usually, but not always fades to a uniformed brown as the snake ages. Northern Mole Kingsnakes are seldom seen out in the open and are general found under surface cover (plywood, tin, flat rocks, etc..).
Its that time of year when the natural resources specialists at NAS Patuxent River begin receiving dozens of calls each week reporting copperhead snakes in buildings and hangars across the installation; but according to Kyle Rambo, conservation director, the snake youre seeing isnt likely a copperhead.
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A large, moderately stout snake attaining a maximum length of about 101 inches. The gray rat subspecies is slightly smaller than the black rat, attaining a maximum length of only about 84 inches. The black rat snake is more common in north Alabama, while the gray rat snake is more common in the south.
Variations in color are noticeable in gray rat snakes with individuals in south Alabama being much lighter than those found elsewhere in the state. Skillful climbers, rat snakes ascend trees or rafters of buildings in search of birds, eggs and mice.
They may nest high in tree cavities, a position that may reduce mortality from fire ants and other ground-foraging predators. LIFE HISTORY AND ECOLOGY : Diurnal in spring and fall, but becomes nocturnal in summer. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians.
A medium to large serpent, the gray ratsnake typically reaches an adult size of 99–183 cm (3.25–6.00 ft) total length (including tail); however, the record is 247 cm (8.10 ft) for a captive specimen at the Ridley 4-H Center in Tennessee.
Distribution and habitat
Native to North America,In Canada, this species is known to occur in two disjunct regions of southern Ontario: the Carolinian forest region along the north shore of Lake Erie in the southwest, and the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence region in the southeast.
When startled, the gray ratsnake, like other ratsnakes, stops and remains motionless with its body held in a series of wave-like kinks. The snake will also rattle its tail against whatever it is lying on, making an audible buzzing sound. The gray ratsnake will defend itself by raising its head and bluffing a strike. If handled, it will musk a victim by releasing the foul-smelling contents of its cloaca, and will bite if necessary. However, the gray ratsnake is less likely to bite than other members of its genus, and wounds from a bite rarely require more than a small bandage.
The gray ratsnake is considered common across much of its range, but is listed as “of special concern” in MichiganHabitat destruction and road mortality are leading causes of decline.
Copperheads and Similar Looking Harmless Species
First, we’ll take a look at Eastern Copperheads and point out their most identifying characteristics. Copperheads are born alive and with the exception of the tail tip, they are colored and patterned the same as adults. The following four photographs are of baby/juvenile Eastern Copperheads. Note the sulfur yellow colored tail tip. The yellow tail tip is used as a lure for frogs, lizards and other prey items. As the snake ages the bright tail tip fades. The only other Virginia snake with a bright yellowish to yellowish green tail tip is the venomous eastern cottonmouth.* Click on a thumbnail to see a larger versionEastern Copperheads have dark colored crossbands that are for the most part shaped like an hourglass. Usually some of the crossbands are broken and do not connect.The Eastern Copperhead is a pit-viper, as are all three of Virginia’s venomous snake species (Eastern Copperhead, eastern cottonmouth and timber rattlesnake). The “pit” in pit-viper refers to the heating sensing pit located between the eye and the nostrils on the snake‘s head. In addition to the heat sensing pit all three venomous snakes in Virginia have vertical pupils. All harmless snakes in Virginia have round pupils and lack the heat sensing pits. Another characteristic of all Virginia’s venomous snakes is the single row of scales on the underside of the tail after the anal plate (vent).While close inspection of a snake‘s face and/or its bum is a definitive way to distinguish a venomous snake from a harmless species, it requires one to get dangerously close to a potently dangerous animal. It is far better to learn the pattern and coloration of a few snakes so that a specimen may be identified from a safe distance.
Eastern Copperhead vs. Northern Black Racer
Like the Eastern Ratsnake, black racers are also born with a blotched pattern. However, unlike the Eastern Ratsnake that may retain the juvenile pattern for several years, the pattern of the Northern Black Racer usually fades to a uniformed black within the first two years of life. Juvenile Northern Black Racers usually do not seek winter refuge in human occupied dwellings. Northern Black Racers are usually one of the first snakes to become active when spring arrives.
Eastern Copperhead vs. Northern Watersnake
Juvenile and subadult Northern Watersnakes have a pattern that can vary greatly in color, from dark grayish to a reddish brown. The color of some individuals watersnakes can come close to that of some copperheads, however the pattern on the Northern Watersnake is always narrow on the sides and wide near the backbone. This is completely opposite of the pattern found on the copperhead (wide on the sides and narrow near the back bone). Some adult Northern Watersnakes retain a strong, distinct juvenile pattern while others become a uniformed brown. As the name implies, the Northern Watersnake is usually found in close proximity to water.
Eastern Copperhead vs. Eastern Milksnake
The pattern of the Eastern Milksnake is fairly consistent in Virginia, however the intensity of the colors can vary quite a bit. Usually the blotches across the back are outlined in black. Eastern Milksnakes are found state wide, but are more abundant in the mountainous regions.
Eastern Copperhead vs. Eastern Hog-nosed Snake
Eastern Hog-nosed Snakes are the great actors of the snake world. In an effort to ward off predators these snakes will puff-up, hiss loudly, spread their neck and strike with the mouth closed. If all else fails the hognose snake will roll over and play dead. Found state wide the pattern and coloration of these snake can vary greatly. Eastern hognose snakes prefer sandy soil and primarily feed on toads.The pattern of the eastern hog-nosed snake can vary greatly
Eastern Copperhead vs. Red Cornsnake
The Red Cornsnake also known as the red ratsnake is usually more brightly colored and and has a more reddish hue than that of the copperhead. The pattern of the Red Cornsnake is a blotch that does not extend down the sides to the ground. Unlike the juvenile pattern of the Eastern Ratsnake that fades as the snake ages, the pattern of the Red Cornsnake remains distinct regardless of age.