Monday, May 23, 2011

Black Rat Snake (Pantherophis obsoleta): Broad River Wildlife Management Area, Wilkes County, Georgia

We visit the Broad River Wildlife Management Area in Wilkes County, Georgia fairly regularly. A couple of trails are reputed to drop from the end of the roads in the WMA down to the Broad River. We decided to check out the trail from the end of C. Johnson Road last Saturday.

I was standing at the trail head when I remembered that, since this trail goes through brush, I’d like to have a snake hook along just to beat the bushes and logs before I stepped over them. W had just about reached the trail head with the snake hook so I turned to start down the trail. I have to confess I wasn’t paying particular attention; it was the head of the trail after all. Nothing happens at the trail head.

After a step or so, I gasped – I think my heart missed a beat or two - and came to a sudden stop. It took a few seconds for my brain to process what I was looking at, only a few steps in front of me.

The biggest Black Rat Snake we’ve ever seen. It stretched across the trail. W estimated to it be about 5 feet long and it was well fed; a really healthy snake. I’ve had a little experience with Black Rat Snakes so I gently stroked its tail with the snake hook.

It turned partly to confront the threat. Isn’t it beautiful?
(It strikes me that it reacted much like I would have if someone sneaked up behind me and touched me unexpectedly. I’d wheel around to see if I was being threatened in some way too.)

A view from one side and…

The other.

A close view. It’s flicking its tongue and the color pattern on the scales on its underside are clearly visible.

Another close view. The white eye is due to reflection of the flash light; the eyes were clear in natural light.

I must confess that the encounter left me a little jittery for the rest of the hike.

Click on an image to view a larger image

Identification resource:

- Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, Herpetology Program: Black Rat Snake (Pantherophis obsoleta; formerly Elaphe obsoleta)

Related posts:

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

- Black Rat Snake: Another Close Encounter


Mike B. said...

Awesome! We only have little garter snakes in our yard. I think I'm glad about that.

JSK said...

And to think I was afraid of garter snakes when we lived in Seattle :-)