Black Rat Snake

Length 42-72 in. (107-183 cm.)

This is Virginia's largest snake. Although it is typically four to six feet long, individuals have been known that were more than eight feet long. An essentially forest-loving snake, the black rat occurs throughout most of Virginia. It is an accomplished climber and is often found high in trees, frequently taking shelter in woodpecker holes and other cavities.

When first encountered, most black rats freeze in position, blending in with their surroundings. They remain motionless until grasped. Although some offer little or no
resistance when first captured, many will vibrate their tail rapidly and strike repeatedly. When picked up, they usually coil tightly about the arm and discharge a
foul-smelling substance from the anal scent glands. After being handled for a short time, they usually calm down. From then on they make excellent, hardy captives.

Black rat snakes often hibernate in rock crevices in the company of other snakes, such as copperheads and rattlers. This habit gave rise to the fallacy that rat snakes
"pilot" these venomous snakes to safety in time of danger; thus they are often called pilot black snakes.Rodents, birds and bird eggs, and lizards are favored prey by rat snakes.

Of all the snakes senselessly slaughtered out of ignorance and fear, the black rat snake is one of the most common. The fact is that black rat snakes are one of
our most beneficial and splendid reptile assets; they play an essential role in controlling destructive rodents.