Note: Bernard Brown at Philly Herping has kindly corrected my identification. Please see his comment below which provides excellent characteristics to differentiate between the Eastern Kingsnake and the Black Rat Snake. Thanks Bernard. I've included links to both the Rat snake - this link shows the Black, Gray, and Yellow Rat snakes - and the Eastern Kingsnake so that you can compare photos of these snakes. Luckily, the snake, correctly identified, was still nonvenomous; neither it nor I came to any harm.
Meanwhile, visit House of Herps #7 to read about other herp adventures.
We don’t see many snakes these days – not even as road kill. I’ve been keeping my eyes open for snakes this year. It was mid afternoon; about 3:20 pm on a Friday afternoon. I’d stopped along the trail just after it left the dam (segment 4) to rest. A couple of runners came by. I set off again and wasn’t really paying attention. I came around a turn in the trail that was obscured by a tree. And there it was… A Black Rat Snake (Pantherophis obsoleta); a non-venomous snake found throughout Georgia.
Obviously I startled it; even from a distance, you can see the ripples of the tensed muscles in its body. It was a blessing that it froze since I was startled as well. Luckily I was walking, not running – the encounter might have been quite different if I’d been running. My major concern at that moment, however, was whether my camera was ready. Since this section of trail doesn’t offer a lot of photo ops I wasn’t paying attention to camera settings. So the fact that it froze allowed me to get these photos.
I edged slowly off to the left so that it could make a break for it if it wanted to. But it stayed in the same place.
You can see the its white belly and the patchy white scale pattern on its back.
A close up of its head.
Please may I go? By this time, it wanted to leave. It made a move but was still concerned by my presence.
It’s leaving. It was only when it started to leave that it began probing the air with its tongue. It also ‘rattled’ its tail silently, kicking up a small dust cloud as it moved along. It headed off down the slope towards the lake shore, probably to get a drink.
Click on an image to view a larger image
Snakes of Georgia and South Carolina
- Black Rat Snake (Pantherophis obsoleta)
- Eastern Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula)