Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Black Rat Snake in our side yard...

Saturday afternoon Matty and I were walking in the side yard when we both saw a Black Rat snake alongside the rock path. He froze as soon as he saw us, and we watched him for a while. When I realized he was in frozen mode, I ran in to get the camera, hoping he would stay put for a few more minutes. He was in the same place when I returned, so I took a few photos. Eventually he figured out we weren't going to try to eat him or pick him up, so he slowly slithered away under a large bush...

Black Rat Snake (Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta)
A Black Rat snake (Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta) in our side yard. I'm glad this fellow is living here. I hope he comes out and says hi more often.

...as you can tell, our Black Rat snake isn't all that black! He has a beautiful pattern with copper, brown and yellow showing through. Unfortunately, this pattern sometimes gets him killed when uninformed homeowners confuse him with a venomous snake. The round pupil on the Black Rat snake lets you know he is nonvenomous. Venomous snakes have elliptical pupils. Having a Black Rat snake living close by is beneficial...

...someone is full and happy. I wonder what he ate...mouse, vole, chipmunk? If you look at the left, you can see the scales are close together, but in the middle prey has stretched out the skin, which separates the scales. 

...freezing in place is a good defense when you are camouflaged as well as our snake is. He blended in so perfectly, it would have been easy to walk right past him. Black Rat snakes are the largest snakes found in Ohio, and they are often found in suburban neighborhoods. You might have one in your yard and not even know it.

...with his head tipped up a little, you can see the rostral groove in his upper lip, which is the small hole the tongue protrudes through. In the next photo...you can see the tongue!
Snakes flick their tongues in and out of their mouths through the rostral groove without every having to open their mouths.
To learn more about the rostral groove and how snakes use their tongues and the Jacobson's Organ to smell, click here.

The pattern on a Black Rat snake, when visible, is distinct. The dark spots on the dorsal side lay across his back like saddles. 


This video shows how beautiful and graceful a Black Rat snake is when it moves.

I wonder if this is the baby Black Rat snake we found in our basement last autumn and released into our back yard? He's not fully grown, so he might be...

p.s. This post is for my niece, Maria, my son, Matty, and my neighbor, Chet...all of whom love snakes. 

13 comments:

Paul Cooper said...

Wonderful post Kelly, so cool to find this in your garden.

TexWisGirl said...

he's very pretty. wish we'd have more of these and less copperheads and moccasins.

Janice K said...

We have had what we thought were big black snakes near our house, on the roof and climbing down the outside of the fireplace in the past. I'm sorry to say the first thing I did was not to run for my camera. Thanks to you, Kelly, I at least now know I should look at his eyes before I take off running.

I have learned more about snakes from you than anyone else in my lifetime.

holdingmoments said...

That's a real beauty Kelly.

Kathy A. Johnson said...

He really is a pretty snake--I can't believe I'm writing that. Even though I don't "love" snakes, I appreciate what they do--the non-venomous ones, anyway. We had a large black snake patrolling near our compost pile in the back yard, keeping us fairly pest free. Haven't seen him in a while, so I hope he hasn't moved on.

Chris said...

My, I would have run in the other direction.. I hate snake.... you got wonderful pictures Kelly... You are a brave and courageous lady ;-)

Banjo52 said...

Good info and pics, once again, but I've given up on being buds with snakes--grateful though I am if they eat rats.

Guy said...

Hi Kelly

What a beautiful snake I hope he thrives.

All the best.
Guy

Roy said...

Nice! I keep looking for the Southern Water Snake I saw and shot last year as it lay coiled on a branch over the creek in the Dykeman Springs Wetlands Park. So far no luck, and that particular cradle of beanches it was curled up on is gone due to various wind storms since. But I keep looking.

Betsy Adams said...

I would have been scared since snakes scare me. He was pretty big, wasn't he? I don't know one snake from another --so I'm never sure which ones are the good ones and which ones are NOT.... Great group of photos, Kelly.

Hugs,
Betsy

Nate said...

@Betsy - They're all good! There are just some that need a slightly wider berth.

Even Copperheads and Cottonmouths, which get a bad rap but are generally slow-moving and docile.

Kelly said...

...thanks, everyone. Our snake made another appearance the other day. He was in the back yard this time and once again froze in place as I walked by. He was stretched out and kinked up, and looked just like a gnarled walking stick!

Bluebell Woods said...

I find snakes fascinating. Cant say I love them but I do respect them. Some are quite beautiful. I am not afraid of them as long as I know they are not venomous. What I don't like is the fact that you cant reason with them. I always feel that you can look an animal in the eyes and see into its soul. That it knows you mean it no harm........not so with snakes. I also know I have a false sense of security when it comes to animals (smile)
Janice