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The gray rat snake, sometimes referred to as the black rat snake, is Ohio’s largest snake and one of the most common snakes mindlessly killed out of ignorance or fear. Fact is, the gray rat snakes are one of Ohio’s most beneficial and exceptional reptiles; they play an essential role in controlling destructive rodents in the state of Ohio. Although it is typically four to six feet long, some have been found that were more than eight feet long. It is completely black except for a white chin. The body is slender and the head is wedge-shaped.
Adult gray rat snakes primarily eat mice, rats, squirrels, and birds, as well as bird eggs. They are a common predator on wood duck eggs. Juveniles snakes like to eat small frogs, lizards, and other small rodents.
Distribution And Habitat
The gray rat snake prefers the forest, and occurs throughout most of Ohio. It is an accomplished climber and is often found high in trees, frequently taking shelter in woodpecker holes and other crevices.
Soon after winter hibernation, snakes will begin the mating process, usually from April to June. Incubation will last around 65 to 70 days, and the female will then lay her eggs in a hidden area, such as under hollow logs or leaves, or in abandoned burrows. A typical clutch has 12 to 20 eggs.
When first encountered, most gray rat snakes freeze in position, blending in with their surroundings. They remain motionless unless grabbed.
Although some offer little or no resistance when first captured, many will vibrate their tail rapidly and strike repeatedly. When picked up, they usually coil tightly about the arm and discharge a foul-smelling substance from the anal scent glands.