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The Rat Snake

Elaphe obsoleta lindheimeri - The Texas Rat Snake

You can find this picture on Texas Bow Hunter with a dot and a com involved

You can find this picture on Texas Bow Hunter with a dot and a com involved

The Rat Snake

Two nights in a row here in rural Kaufman County Texas on the little Shaw farm I've had snake encounters. The first night as I walked the sidewalk, and then onto my parent's back porch, I stepped over a thing without really bothering to see what it was, then turned around and kicked it off the porch and half onto the sidewalk, where it then started slithering and hissing, and made a bit of a fuss about my rude behavior. I never saw what kind of snake it was, but it was small. The lights on the back porch were not on.

Last night I was doing the exact same thing, walking the sidewalk to the back porch. I was going inside to watch the Texas Rangers baseball game. I didn't make it to the back porch so quickly the second night, as I'd nearly walked up to the back end of what was clearly a very large snake just on the side of , and even with the line of the grass against the sidewalk. I was rather shocked by the sight, as this snake was at least four feet long, maybe five or more feet long. I jumped back several feet and instinctively shouted out of primal fear and shock.

Well the master of the house came out with his great big Mag flashlight, and he also turned on the very bright flood lights. We quickly identified the slithering critter as a Texas rat snake.

The Texas Rat Snake, Also Called A "Chicken Snake"

Now the picture above is not my own, and the reason I do not have my own pictures of the large rat snake that gave me a bit of a thrill and a silly Facebook status thing to post is because snakes are somewhat exciting. You must humbly submit that the majority of you do not think to go run and grab some sort of camera in order to photograph a snake when you happen to come into contact with one. I'm rather certain that most of you wonderful readers, were you so bold as to describe your snake adventures, well, you might have to omit some bits of honesty about it all.

Most of us never get past our primal fear of snakes.

So as it happened the Dad and I were outside contending with a large snake. I got all bold with the Pater familias at hand with his big flashlight, and I grabbed the thing by its tail. I assure you that non domesticated snakes in Texas are officially Texan, and so they do not appreciate being grabbed by their tails. The long snake aimed his head in my direction, which promptly caused me to drop its tail, scream like a little girl, and run the other direction into the darkness. A snake in the light is sometimes frightening enough to allow one to forget that they could very well be stepping on snakes in the dark.

My father knew already that the snake in question was a rat snake. I assure you that I was in no way so easily satisfied with his bit of two second taxonomy. I happen to know that the water moccasin can often be colored just the way this snake was - so please realize I was being very brave (totally stupid) when I grabbed the thing by its tail. Of course I regained my composure, and the snake regained his desire to just get away from the large two legged Texans making a fuss about it.

Dad kept focusing his bright beam of flashlight on the snake's head, and it was clearly no pit viper at all, and with the powers of Google, I quickly saw that my old Pater familias was completely right, it was a rat snake.

No snakes were harmed, and the creature slithered and coiled safely behind a big rubber rainwater reservoir against the house, but that doesn't mean that the snake in question isn't destined towards a bad end here, you see, the Pater familias raises chickens. Rat snakes are also very commonly known as "chicken snakes,"and this is because they really love to swallow bird eggs, and around here, we do not take lightly to chicken egg theft by snake.

Rat Snakes - They Get To Be Rather Large Sometimes

A Baja California Rat Snake (Bogertophis rosaliae)


The corn snake (Pantherophis guttatus guttatus), or red rat snake


Rat Snakes, Corn Snakes

Now there is a lot to know concerning rat snakes, and at present, the Wikipedia page for the general search term "rat snake," is pretty damned poor for a Wikipedia page concerning a species of creature so widespread and well known. Of course a part of the problem is that there are just quite a lot of species of rat snake. There are thirteen unique species of rat snake in the Americas, and forty unique species elsewhere.

Rat snakes of the Americas can get to be rather large. A five foot rat snake is no strange thing around here. The snakes aren't really aggressive, but they can be in the wild, as they aren't used to two legged fools grabbing them by their tails. Rat snake bites are hardly ever any problem. The rat snake can hardly break your skin even, and they don't want to bite you to begin with.

Rat snakes are constrictors, and they can be pretty powerful, but if a rat snake has ever killed a human being in North America, then I can't find the report that confirms it. Facts are that corn snakes are a species of rat snake, and the corn snake is one of the most common pet snakes found anywhere where a person keeps snakes as a pet.

You might happen to be wondering why there are snakes called corn snakes, and how it is they aren't called rat snakes, even though they are absolutely of the fine family of serpent known as the rat snakes - well I'm here to tell just the how and the why about that. Years ago farmers would stack their loads of corn ears in barns specifically for that storage, and the rats would come to eat what they could, and this of course, brought in the dear old red rat snakes, which as you can guess, became known as corn snakes for having helped our friends the farmers by ridding them of free loading rats in the corn storage barns.

Rat snakes of all kinds make good barn guests, and they even make good house guests. Yes indeed, friends, I read with my only two eyes a tale of a man who proudly proclaimed that he would in fact, release rat snakes into his attic whenever he saw mouse droppings up there where we keep the toys. The man said that there was never any issues, the snakes no longer felt welcome after they'd eaten all the rats, and they'd find some manner of exit of their own choosing so as to not alarm the bottom dwellers of the home.

I suggest that should you invite a rat or corn snake into your home as a guest, that you do take a moment to explain to he or she that they should not be seen near the chicken coops, so as to not be called in exactly this order: 1. chicken snake, and finally, 2. dead snake.

Rat Snake Vs Eggs

The Mandarin Rat Snake, Elaphe mandarina


Old World Rat Snakes, Venom, and a bit of Controversy

When we talk of the "new world," we are always talking about the Americas, and regardless of the fact that there is nothing new about either North or South America, and regardless even further of the fact that there were always plenty of persons living here. Western minds are poisoned with their own egos, but that is another story altogether.

In any case, when we talk about "old world" rat snakes, we are definitely referring to rat snakes that do NOT live in the Americas. Old world rat snakes were forever thought to be non venomous snakes, but as it turns out, this isn't true. Several species of old world rat snakes do, in fact, possess venom. The reasons it wasn't known before is the venom of the species of old world rat snakes that do have venom - is very ineffective or inconsequential to humans should one be so tom foolish as to have been bitten by our rat eating spineless friends, but then again maybe the old world persons were in the process of rebuking our spineless brethren for having eaten a chicken.

In the world of the biological sciences, there is some controversy. Probably not so heated as to cause fisticuffs, as the controversy only involves whether or not all the old world rat snakes belong in the same genus as do the new world rat snakes, and the genus in question is the noble spineless snake and sometimes chicken eating genus of Elaphe.

Never those who shirk controversy, friends of the philosopher Solon unite, and hug a rat snake today!

A Yellow Rat Snake


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Wesman Todd Shaw


Snakesmum on May 01, 2016:

No Wesman, afraid pythons don't actually ward off other snakes! They would be as much in danger as us from the venom of the dangerous snakes.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on April 30, 2016:

Thank you, Snakesmum!

Oh yes, your continent is rather famous for its snakes! Glad you've got the friendly variety at hand. Maybe they ward off or kill the deadly snakes in your region?

Around here we have King snakes. King snakes often look like venomous vipers, but they instead and in fact eat the dangerous ones.


Snakesmum on April 30, 2016:

Very entertaining hub - love the way you wrote it! :-)

Wish we had rat snakes here in Australia, but we do have heaps of other varieties to take care of our rodents! Pythons are a popular pet here, and I have three of them. The big guy (8.5 feet) wants to eat my cat and the cat wants to eat the little guys, so they aren't allowed to mix. Pythons are usually welcome in barns, as they keep the rats/mice down.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on July 19, 2012:

Hey Dusty, I have to learn a lot about that history and such...I'm more ignorant by far than I ought to be about the Native tribes, and what all they knew

Hey Tex...them critters keep my mind off of politics!! God bless each and every one of them!

If I ever see a rattler in the wild...I'll probably die of a heart attack - you folks can keep those things....hell, they're around here too, but ...we ought to ship em' to Arizona....so as to facilitate you seeing one.


texshelters from Mesa, Arizona on July 18, 2012:

Another god damn animal post...

I like snakes, but I wouldn't run to get a camera for fear that the snake would leave and I would miss it slithering away.

I have yet to see a rattler up close, but if I get out more this winter, I hope to see one from a safe distance.


50 Caliber from Arizona on July 18, 2012:

Wesman, the Indians who once owned our land before the great white genocide of them, were mostly quite peaceful all though there were factions of warriors that would best be described as "Gangs" they killed and took, so it shows among all the people that a dark element was with all.

I would recommend taking a look into the Oklahoma band of mixed tribes who were forced to walk the infamous trail of tears to the shit hole of a reservation that was set for them in Oklahoma.

They are the most forgiving peoples of mixed tribes that have a culture that has worked with the Americans and the Military beginning with the the most famous "code talkers", an event that got a movie deal but is so much more and they still work in those areas. Seams they developed and built systems that save lives galore, when an IED hits a Stryker or Humvee vehicle there are systems on newer units that deploy fire extinguishers in an instant to help quell the burst of fire that has fried soldiers from fuel tank ruptures. I watched a video not long back that demo'ed the way they work. Awesome to say the least spending time learning from them is time well spent. They keep manufacturing rights and the tribes build them and the placement of the facility to build the things they think of and build are almost always placed in the poorest sections of the reservations. They help the poor over the white ways of helping the unions. Much to consider when looking for a spirit guide, they are a spiritual people and can lead you to the path that is scoffed at, Christianity, they were easy converts as missionaries came because they already knew the story of one who died for all, it was in their circle of spirituality that they had accurately passed down for generations. There exist no better story tellers that hold accuracy as a premium through the years,



Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on July 16, 2012:

Hey Sir Happy!

I'm very impressed (and jealous) of your increasing and large already (for a Euro sort) understanding of the Native American traditions!!! It is a subject I do want to read a whole lot more into...but especially the histories and traditions of various tribes, I think, would be what I'd be more locked into.

Had my 20 year high school reunion Saturday night. There was a guy there I assumed I'd just forgot about, or never got to know...but he was someone's husband....a Mexican American guy who had studied various martial arts his whole life....the man never once stopped smiling despite the fact he knew exactly one person there....so of course I had to find out what he was about.

....I was toasted....but I recall a conversation about the differences between the Comanche and the Apache...but of course those Native Nations were down here.

All that to say, thanks for the comment!...(and that I want to read about Comanche and Apache history!)

Mr. Happy on July 16, 2012:

I totally messed-up the format ... LOL

There are snakes here but tiny ones, like garden snakes and they are quite harmless. Bad karma might get a rattler pop-up but that is pretty rare, in my opinion. I never saw one and I have gone throug on July 16, 2012:

About determining one's guiding animal spirit, what I have to say is strictly from my own personal opinion so, You may or may not want to take my words as truth.

The first question I would ask myself is a plain and simple one: "To which of my animal cousins am I attracted to the most?" I have always like wolves and canines in general. I do well amongst dogs too - as a favorite saying of mine goes: "I am a friend to any and all dogs." I understand canines well and I feel quite attached to them.

Finding out your guiding elements can help too. My second guiding spirit is the Eagle/Hawk. I love flying, the freedom of the sky ... the infinite, the unknown - they all attract me. I am a Gemini, governed by the Element of Air. Thus, having the Eagle/Hawk Spirit as a guiding source for me, makes sense and it feels right.

Both, the Hawk Spirit and the Wolf Spirit have helped me in the past, beyond any doubt (for me). I am grateful for that!

From the little I know, one can also go on a Vision Quest, in order to find their guiding animal spirit. I have yet to do that though. And for me doing the Vision Quest would be more for gaining personal power and not necessarily to find-out which animal spirit may be able to guide me. I would recommend the Vision Quest to anyone. That is just personal opinion though.

I would go more by how I feel about all this than by what others have to say. It's sort of like interpreting dreams; only the person who is dreaming can really interpret their dreams. Others can only give their opinion, which may or may not be instructive.

I wish this helps a little.

All the best!

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on July 16, 2012:

Thanks very much DDE!!!

Yes there are some VERY venomous snakes here too...the coral snake is the most deadly we have around here...but those snakes are very very shy, and they do not want to bite you.

There are, of course, venomous snakes in some places in the world that seriously do want to bite/kill people...without any reason at all.

I sure hope you manage to stay away from those! :)

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on July 16, 2012:

Thank you very much for your comment and story Sir Robert from my homeland!!!!!!!!!!!!!

That is weird how the snake got into cold water...I wonder if it would have died had you not returned it to the woods and ambient temperatures?

Your dogs killed copperheads? That is awesome! I'm ....not sure if any dogs I've ever had did that....but of course I wasn't spending all day every day with them....that has me wondering, as of course there are copperheads here too....lots of them.

I'm pleased that I've NOT seen one this year...but the Pater familias has reported trespassing copperheads that received a smite for their transgressions this year.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on July 16, 2012:

Hey Mr. Happy, this is a really dumb question....but do you have snakes at all in your corner of North America????

Also, I wonder how one determines which animal is one's kindred spirit?

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on July 12, 2012:

Wow!! I to had encounters with snakes but deadly venomous one

rOBERT hEWETT SR. from Louisville, Kentucky on July 11, 2012:

Well, hello Kaufman County, Texas pardner. I was born near Kaufman and grew up in the rural Scurry, Texas part of Kaufman County. You are right on target on the Chicken (Rat) snake. We used to find them in the chickent nests when we reached in to collect the eggs. I guess I will have to post my poem about using a chicken snake to scare the daylkights out of my brother 8 years my senior. We had a block of ice on the porch and it was slowly melting. This 4 or 5 ft Chicken snake crawled into this ice water and became immobile. My oldest brother, another brother and I were sitting at a table with bench seats. My brother was relating his wild times in Dallas. I was rubbing this rope with my bare foot. When it dawned on me there should not be a rope under the table, I looked and found this Chicken snake. I waited for my brother to pause and I said "Don't look now, but there is a snake under the table. He utter a Whaaaat as he peeked under the table and saw the snake. He upended the table, the benches and my other brother and me as the managed a terrific leap to the yard. I laughed at him and picked the snake up and took it to the woods and left it to warm up. Copperheads, on the other hand, were just as plentiful as Chicken snakes and we were not so kind to them, nor were our dogs.

Loved your bub. Robert

Evelyn Anne on July 11, 2012:

Really enjoyed this read! Not that I like snakes at all, but it was really fun and educational to read this hub. Great writing!

Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on July 11, 2012:

"I jumped back several feet and instinctively shouted out of primal fear and shock." Haha!! Hop away like a bunny!

I shouldn't be laughing, I walked by a deer last week and we both startled the life out of each other - I laughed so hard when I realized that the heavy and sudden movements in the brush were only those of a deer. Everyone was talking bears that morning and I for sure want to stay away from startling any macaw (bear) ...

"The long snake aimed his head in my direction, which promptly caused me to drop its tail, scream like a little girl, and run the other direction into the darkness." - I think You're supposed to have a stick (at least) in your other hand too, just to make sure the snake doesn't swing around to bite. Although, from what I understand these guys are not poisonous.

I like constrictors! : )

The yellow in the last two photographs is just superb. I love the metallic shine to them. Gorgeous!

Thanks for a fun story. Good read, informative as well.

Cheers and good luck with the snakes.

P.S. For those who identify with the Snake and have it as their protecting animal Spirit:

"By shedding its skin, the snake symbolizes change in the cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth. It counts among its strengths the power of creation, of sexuality, of the soul, as well as of transformation and immortality. Snake-people are rare, because as part of their experiences they have to have come into contact with poison and have been able to transform the poison in their bodies into something harmless.

The snake belongs to the element of Fire, which causes desire and passion in the physical realm and, in the spiritual realm, creates a connection with the Great Spirit and leads to all-encompassing wisdom.

Whenever the snake appears in your dreams, it is a sign of change as You come ever closer to perfection"

DFiduccia from Las Vegas on July 11, 2012:

This was a pleasure to read! The Hub is useful, funny and interesting, and I like your style of writing.

...voted up—DF

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on July 11, 2012:

Dusty, I am literally scared of rattlesnakes.

Thing is...there are VERY FEW ever seen here.

All it would take would be for someone to say, "oh, you iz SKEERED!!!"

HOLY SHIT! I'd be a pro rattlesnake hunter the very next day :)

I'd eat them buggers as well. Heck, I'd start claiming that rattlesnake meat gave me vicious erections every morning!!!!

I'm not much of a salesman, but I've got the mind of a fox! LOL!

Yeah there ain't much money in the online article marketing...but I have to think, hell, I know - that persons like Habee do very well.

If I had a thousand articles like this one - that would be something there.

I guess I'm just not so inspired as much as I'd like to be...or maybe I'm the lazy one.

50 Caliber from Arizona on July 11, 2012:

Wesman, don't do the money thing, but I can see why folks do. I can make more money, selling rattlesnake heads, skins and rattles to gift shop supply companies. It's probably a bit more work but I do get to eat the snake as well, so a meal and 25 or 30 dollars depending on the size.

I reckon some consider me a "er-do-well" I think is what they call a feller who doesn't strive to do better, you know I don't care, I kinda like that title.

I figure it ain't gonna get much better than this, and fighting the 9 to 5 ain't worth spit, so you like me just getting through the day seems like a good plan as long as some funny shit happens to make you laugh. I got my nickles worth out of this old world, and sit back in awe as folks let the likes of obumma tear it down and they think he's doing a good job, go figure......



Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on July 11, 2012:


Isn't that funny? I used to be so much smarter, and the Dad so much dumber....how did we change positions like that???

Pamela Dapples from Arizona now on July 11, 2012:

Very funny, really enjoyed this.

I laughed, too, because it reminds me of a truism in my life: When I was a boy (girl) of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years. (Attributed to Mark Twain, 1937. Not verifiable.)

I'm glad I saw the snake photos in the morning, not at night. Voting up, interesting and sharing.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on July 11, 2012:

Why thank ye very much, thumbi7!!!!!!!!!

There is a lot more color variation to these rat snakes than I provided here...they can cover the whole spectrum just about, really!!!

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on July 11, 2012:


Hey Dusty I do get some surprise money from InfoBarrel from time to time!

I get a $2 dollar click here and there....

I make more than that here daily though, so I mostly do my do here...also, this HP stuff seems to rank higher in the Google no matter what.

It's all good with me, I suppose....I'm bound to never be too wealthy, and when I can find some motivation for it, then it is worth the pleasure if not the effort.

Yes the fella seemed pretty friendly, really. I hope he makes it, and not towards the chicken coops.

We've a nice large brush pile that I'd bet would fill his belly with mice for a long long time.

Ain't seen that feller since, but I'm definitely looking for him now every evening. I don't wanna step on him!

JR Krishna from India on July 11, 2012:

Enjoyed the photographs and the narration.

Thanks for sharing

50 Caliber from Arizona on July 11, 2012:

Wes man, good job! Rat snake, chicken snake, red racer, blue racer, corn snake, just depends on who you're talking to when you see one of those snakes. I try to pick them up, about a third of the way up from the tail leaving them to hang their heads and swivel back and forth, making a decision is whether or not to bite, sometimes I'm wrong and they strike and bite my shirtsleeve that generally protects me from any skin punctures. Most the time they'll settle down pretty quickly and figure out that I'm not going to eat them, and I'm definitely too big for them to consider a meal. I kind of like seeing them around, they reduce the population of mice and rats that would load it into your house and party in the cabinets eat your frosted flakes.

Voted up, enjoyed the read, understand the lack of motivation around here, it's, got me as well. I think about publishing, and then wonder why, LOL,



Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on July 11, 2012:

Thanks very much, Chris!!!

I hadn't felt much like writing here or anywhere....couldn't think of anything, so something sort of slithered into my path! :)

Christopher Antony Meade from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom on July 11, 2012:

One of your very best hubs Wesman. I found it to be educational and entertaining. If I ever meet a Rat snake I shall be sure to hug him. I just hope he doesn't try to hug me back.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on July 10, 2012:

Thanks very much Vox Vocis!!!!!!!

I did try to work on the humor here :)

Snakes aren't cuddly, but they sure are interesting!

Jasmine on July 10, 2012:

I'm disgusted by snakes really, I have to be honest; but, this was an interesting read and funny, too! Voted up!

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on July 10, 2012:

Thanks so much SueSwan!!!!!!!!!!!

I totally tried to be more funny than informative....I think it was the alcohol...and the circumstances!

Sueswan on July 10, 2012:

Hi Wes

Informative, entertaining and funny!

I am sure you wouldn't be too happy if someone picked you by the tail. ROFL.

Voted up up and away.

Take care :)

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