Saturday, September 18, 2010

Black Rat Snake: Another Close Encounter

We live in the country. So occasionally snakes turn up at the house; often near the ramp to the front door. We find Ring-neck snakes (Diadophis punctatus), Black Rat Snakes (Pantherophis obsoleta), Eastern Kingsnakes (Lampropeltis getula) or Rough Green snakes (Opheodrys aestivus). Although the cats are fascinated by snakes, none of them is a ‘snaker.’ Three of our cats once sat in a circle watching an Eastern Kingsnake and not knowing what to do.

Usually snakes don’t come
into the house. But last summer during the drought, some rodents, probably desperate for food, invited themselves in. An enterprising Black Rat snake invited itself in, apparently to hunt the rodents. Fortunately, I wasn’t home when the snake was discovered. It was uninvited and relocated to the edge of the woods a little way from the house. Not satisfied with its new location, it made its way back to the house and was found in the house again a day or so later. On this occasion, I was home and got some photos of it in the container used to relocate it a good quarter mile down the drive. And that was that…

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I thought I heard a couple of rodent traps being sprung and some clattering in the pantry. The sounds were ‘soft’ and I figured I’d mistaken the sound and that one
of the cats was playing with a toy and causing the occasional clattering. Finally, when the sounds continued, I went to scold the cat and send it on its way only to find none in sight. I got a flashlight and shone it into the pantry. At first I couldn’t see anything and then I saw black scaly coils. I couldn’t believe it at first but a closer look confirmed that it was a snake – probably a Black Rat snake.

I don’t mess with snakes. So I got W who does mess with snakes when necessary. I got my camera while he got the plastic bucket and snake tongs. I got back first and got…

Evidence. Just in case I didn’t get another chance. No telling what would happen next. (If you enlarge the photo and know what you're look for, you can just make out a trap attached to the snakes tail.)

W got the snake into the bucket and disengaged not one but two rat traps from its tail. That explained the clattering. The snake had been trying to dislocate the traps and hitting other items in the pantry with them.

In the bucket. Its 4-5 feet long.

We walked it down the drive and decided to let it go where it would have only a short journey over to the woods on the other side of the fence. It wasn’t eager to leave the bucket and we had to tip it out gently. It didn’t panic but slowly slid away from us towards the woods

Just starting to leave.

Closer view of its head just as it slides under the fence.


The next morning, I grabbed a bag of dry cat food from the top of the refrigerator to fill the cat bowl. Coincidentally, I grabbed a banana at the same time. Although my mind was processing that this was a banana and not a snake, I dropped it like a hot potato.
This week workers installing a new heat pump under the house found a 3-foot Black Rat snake.

Click on an image to view a larger image

Identification resource
- Snakes of Georgia and South Carolina: Black Rat Snake (Pantherophis [Elaphe] obsoleta)

Related post:

And There It Was… Black Rat Snake (Pantherophis obsoleta)


rebecca said...

A beautiful snake! Although I can't blame you for being a bit unsettled finding it in your house. One of my housemates doesn't like snakes OR lizards and yesterday a small skink crawled out from under the fridge while we were in the kitchen... I was thrilled, she was, well, not.

JSK said...

I just hope I don't step on one in the middle of the night. And you can be sure I won't be reaching into dark places without shining a flashlight in first. I've got a few places I'm now 'patrolling' regularly with flashlight in hand. :-)