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Common Rat Snake

Pantherophis (Elaphe) obsoleta

  • Family: Colubridae
  • Adult Size: Up to 8 feet
  • Range: Most of the eastern United States into southern Canada.
  • Habitat: Nearly all habitats across range.
  • Captive Lifespan: 12 to 20 Years
  • Dangerous:
  • Care Level: Intermediate


The common rat snake, Elaphe obsolete, is the largest species of North American rat snake. Its range includes most of the eastern United States into southern Canada, and west to Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. The subspecies of obsolete include the black rat snake (E. o. obsolete), the gray rat snake (E. o. spiloides), the yellow rat snake (E. o. quadrivittata), the Everglades rat snake (E. o. rossalleni) and the Texas rat snake (E. o. lindheimerii).

Members of the rat snake clan 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.

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