Black Rat Snake Facts

You could say it’s the un-demanding nature of snakes that makes them such sought after pets in our busy world.

You don’t have to be too concerned about their diet either as they can be fed prepared frozen rodents. Black Rat Snake facts will tell you that this particular serpent is an excellent snake pet choice.

It’s really just a case of getting the snake enclosure or terrarium set up nicely to get a whole lot of enjoyment from a reptile as a pet.

Name and Size

The Black Rat snake makes a splendid pet. It is also referred to as the Western Rat Snake, the Pilot Snake or just Black Snake. An interesting aspect with this snake is that the other name it has been given – ‘Pilot Snake’ – is referring to the fact that in the colder months, this snake ‘leads’ other snakes to shelter.


It dens up with other snakes, even being prepared to make room for the Timber Rattlesnake.

The snake is medium-sized, reaching between 40 to 72 inches in length. It has been known to reach 7 or 8 feet in length. The snake is attractive, with a sleek, but powerful body.

On the ground, the reptile slithers along horizontally and it can easily go from the ground and up into a tree. These snakes are excellent climbers and when necessary, they enter rivers, not being averse to taking a swim.


You’ll find the Black Rat Snake in the eastern- and midwest parts of the United States, but they have also been found in some northern parts of Oklahoma.

They have also been spotted in certain areas of Canada. They are a commonly seen snake, being abundant in numbers.  It is therefore not close to being listed as threatened or endangered.


The snake shouldn’t just be randomly killed, because, in terms of ecology and conservation, this snake is helpful in controlling rodent populations. The serpent does well in a variety of habitats, from meadows to forest. In their pursuit of food, they come into more developed areas too, living in sheds and farm buildings where they find food.


Within these meadow and forest habitats, the Black Rat Snake will take on any rodent. There is much to offer the Black Snake, and he makes a meal of frogs and lizards as well.

Larger, adult Black Rat Snakes will be willing and prepared to take on larger rats and also consume smaller mammals such as a mole, rabbits, birds or squirrel. They are quite prepared to forage around in the branches of trees and raid the nests of birds for eggs.

The snake makes use of the constriction technique. It will lie quietly and then strike out at unsuspecting prey. It kills its prey by wrapping its body around the creature and constricting it.

They’re day-time hunters – diurnal – but during the heat of the Summer, they may prefer to hunt at night.  Snakes like this aren’t really strictly diurnal or nocturnal – they simply come out when they can.  After devouring the prey whole, digestion is slow, taking days for food to be fully digested. The adult Black Rat Snake will only eat a couple of times a month. – black rat snake facts


In captivity, the Black Rat Snake can reach between 10 to 30 years of age. When the snake is young, it looks quite different from its adult counterpart.

They aren’t black but are a greyish-tan color with some darker patterns. As the snake matures they take on that sleek, black coloring, with the pattern of their youth gradually fading.

They aren’t aggressive snakes these, and are fairly tolerant of people, being able to be tamed. The young ones do make a bit of an attempt at being aggressive, and they may even bite. They’re just establishing themselves, and settle down as they mature.

Mistaken Identities.

The Black Rat Snake is an attractive snake that is often mistaken for other similar looking snakes such as the Northern Black Racers, the Black Kingsnakes, and even Rattlesnakes.

Just like the venomous Rattlesnake, the Black Rat Snake will also vibrate or rattle its tail. It is believed that these features stand them in good stead when they are threatened.

These snakes are timid and they try to avoid human confrontation. The snake has a couple of clever tricks up its skin for when it feels threatened. It will go into what is known as a ‘kink’ position. The snake will lie motionless with its body in a slight s-curve, taking on the look of an old tree branch.

The Black Rat Snake isn’t a venomous snake – being a non-venomous colubrid. When this snake feels threatened, it emits a putrid, musky odor to ward off a predator.

When the Black Rat Snake becomes the predator however, they are constrictors and will suffocate their prey.


The Black Rat Snake usually reaches sexual maturity between 4 or 7 years of age. The snakes mate in the Spring.  The snakes are oviparous – they lay eggs.  The female will lay between 4 and 30 eggs early in the Summer. The number of eggs produced will be related to the size of the female.

The male snake is prepared to slither far out of his regular range in search of females. He will be prepared to put up a fight with other males for the right to mate with females. The eggs will be deposited in hollow trees or under logs. The eggs will take anywhere from 35 to 50 days to develop and hatch.

The hatchlings, about 12 inches in length, will stay near the birth-site for a couple of years and will in fact, use this site for hibernation purposes.

The Black Rat Snake as a Pet

The Black Rat Snake is an attractive, undemanding snake. They are a hardy, popular reptile pet for beginners, but full of interesting features that will appeal to experienced snake owners.

As mentioned, they are excellent climbers, so will require s secure enclosure to keep them safely in.

Adult snakes can easily be kept in a 30-40 gallon glass aquarium or terrarium with a well- fitting lid. The taller the cage the better, as these curious snakes love to climb.

They are easy to keep as pets, and cleaning the enclosure, keeping the water bowls clean and feeding your reptile will essentially be your main duties.

When it comes to feeding, your Black Rat Snakes loves a regular diet of mice and rats. In the wild, they look for live prey, but in captivity, they will readily take dead prey.

It is best not to attempt to offer live prey as many times the live prey puts up a good fight and can injure the snake. Your adult snake should be fed every 10 days or so.


Another plus in terms of keeping the Black Rat Snake as a pet is that it doesn’t require a lot of apparatus and equipment. Unlike many other snake species who love warmer temperatures, this snake prefers a cooler temperature.

If you want to prevent them from hibernating, the enclosure will be best kept at a temperature of between 80 and 85° Fahrenheit, dropping to a minimum temperature of 70° at night.

There are special reptile heat lights in different sizes and shapes which can help you to maintain these temperatures.

These are some great examples of some items from Amazon:

[amazon_link asins=’B0002AR3QW,B0759X5GP1,B0002AR3PI,B01CESBCJI,B01CESGH8O,B0006L2UEW’ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’mdonline03-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’aeb316ef-aecf-4030-8b9b-880ee97f7f91′]

Also, unlike other snake breeds, the Black Rat Snake won’t require ultraviolet (UVB) lighting. Heat lights, for instance, can be placed on a timer so that they come on and off every 12 hours or so to replicate the day and night cycles.


Your pet Black Rat snake is a burrowing snake. The substrate or bedding needs to be clean and dry. Newspapers are always an excellent, inexpensive option. However, if you want to make the cage look more attractive, you can buy a dry substrate. Zoo Med Aspen Snake Bedding is just one example, providing a natural substrate that will allow your pet to burrow. It is also odorless and has no toxic oils.


As a climbing snake, add in some branches for climbing. You can use both natural and fake foliage. The snake also likes logs in the wild, so a hide box, available in log-like shapes will please your snake.

For instance, Zoo Med brings out its Habba Hut available in small, medium, large and giant size. Dimensions for the large ‘log’ are 3.75″H x 7.5″L x 7″W. This accessory is an excellent natural alternative to plastic accessories.

This all-natural den or retreat is made of natural Firwood, a great retreat for your reptile pet. A log hide like this will help with keeping stress levels down as it provides your pet with an enclosure that is as close to your snakes’ natural surrounds as possible. Rocks can also be added for aesthetic appeal and for basking purposes.

A large water bowl is also recommended to allow your pet Black Rat Snake the chance to soak. Make sure the bowl is of such a size that it won’t overflow when the snake gets in. Damp terrariums can lead to skin and respiratory infections.


The Black Ratsnake makes a perfect reptile pet, and some have been so happy in captivity that they have reached more than 30 years of age. Evenly tempered, they have been known to bite in self-defense, but are generally balanced, mildly tempered snakes, responding well to gentle, skilled handling.

Do research first, before you bring your Black Ratsnake into your home because then both you and the snake understand each other better as you start your journey towards a long, meaningful relationship.

Thank you for reading the black rat snake facts.  Please feel free to leave a comment here below.

Leave a Comment