Although they are not venomous, black rat snake infestations are still something to be wary of. They can be unpredictable and may resort to biting if they feel threatened.
If you’re curious to know how to get rid of black rat snakes, here’s how: use a broom to sweep them away, trap them using burlap sacks, set up glue boards or tray, use funnel traps and drift fence, or contact a professional snake terminator.
Read further this article for more relevant information on getting rid of black rat snakes and preventing them from coming back!
What Is a Black Rat Snake?
Black rat snakes (Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta) are a subspecies of the medium-sized Eastern Rat Snake (Elaphe obsoleta). They belong to the Pantherophis genus, which is a group of nonvenomous terrestrial snakes.
What Does a Black Rat Snake Look Like?
Black rat snakes are slender-bodied snakes with wedge-shaped heads and keeled scales. They are usually 3 to 5 feet in length but some may reach up to 6 feet.
They are a glossy black on top with obscure whites in between scales. Their undersides are pale yellow or white which is slightly mottled with brown or gray. They also have white chins and throats.
What Do Black Rat Snakes Eat?
As their name suggests, black rat snakes primarily consume rodents. But they also eat bird eggs, frogs, and lizards.
Where Do Black Rat Snakes Live?
Black rat snakes are climbers that are often spotted in rock crevices and trees found in woodlands, meadows, flat farmlands, and rocky hillsides. They share the same habitats as the Northern black racer, which is why they are often mistaken for one another.
How Long Do Black Rat Snakes Live?
They have a lifespan of 10 to 20 years in the wild and up to 30 years in captivity.
When Is the Black Rat Snake’s Mating Season?
Mating season begins after they emerge from their winter habitats in the spring but may last until fall. Black rat snakes lay around 5 to 44 eggs in the succeeding season.
Black Racer vs. Black Rat Snake
Black rat snakes are commonly mistaken for black racers. It doesn’t help that they also share the same types of habitats.
To differentiate, black racers have more slender bodies and are more uniformly black in terms of coloration. Whereas black rat snakes have faint hints of white in between their scales and are thicker in appearance.
When coming face to face with these species, black rat snakes will usually freeze when approached by humans while racers will immediately flee or attempt to strike.
How to Tell if Snakes Are Venomous?
Telling venomous and non-venomous snakes apart can be difficult. Here’s a guide to help you out:
|Characteristics||Venomous Snakes||Non-venomous Snakes|
|Body shape||Relatively thick and flattened||Relatively thin|
|Head shape||Broad, spade-shaped heads with narrow necks||More rounded shape|
|Pupil shape||Catlike or egg-shaped pupils||Rounded pupils|
|Pit||Pits that resemble nostrils located at each side of the head||No pits|
|Scale arrangement||Single row of scales found at the underside of the tail||Two rows of scales|
|Tail||Some venomous snakes have bright tails (e.g., copperheads) or rattles (e.g., rattlesnakes)||None but some species may vibrate their tails when they feel threatened|
Take into consideration that some venomous snakes may have physical characteristics similar to non-venomous snakes and vice versa. Consulting with professionals may still be necessary.
Are Black Rat Snakes Dangerous?
Overall, yes. This is because their behavior is unpredictable and may resort to aggression. In other words, black rat snakes may bite if they feel threatened or cornered.
Are Black Rat Snakes Poisonous?
No, black rat snakes are non-venomous snakes. However, they may bite if they feel endangered. All snake bites still warrant a trip to the clinic for other factors than venom such as tetanus, pain and swelling, and the possibility of infection.
Related: Black Snakes | Are They Poisonous?
Do Black Rat Snakes Make Good Pets?
Yes. Although pet owners may have a difficult time taming young black rat snakes, they will eventually come around. Black rat snakes are relatively easy to take care of and have a good temperament ideal for beginners.
Causes and Signs of Black Rat Snake Infestation
One of the main reasons why black rat snakes invade homes and properties is the abundance of food sources. This not only includes rodents but birds as well.
Another reason is that there may be plenty of potential areas where snakes can establish their dens in your vicinity.
Look out for the following telltale signs of a black rat snake infestation:
- Sightings of shed skin around the vicinity
- Foul-smelling musk
- Unusual sounds coming from the walls or vents
- Droppings that have bone and hair contents
- Presence of snakes or snake activity
- Rodent infestation as snakes will surely be attracted to them
How to Get Rid of Black Rat Snakes?
Follow these steps to get rid of black rat snakes:
- Sweep them away: Using a broom, sweep the black rat snake into a bucket or trash can big enough to accommodate its size. Afterwards, release them somewhere far.
- Trap them using burlap sacks: Place burlap sacks in a crawl space or along a basement wall. Check the sack daily and remove any snakes that enter it either by throwing the entire sack away or using a shovel.
- Set up glue boards or trays: Fasten glue boards to plywood and place them along walls where snakes may possibly slither on. Check these boards daily, making sure that the snakes are removed as soon as possible using vegetable oil.
- Use funnel traps and drift fence: These can be placed in open areas or at identified dens. A box can be placed inside the trap to easily relocate them.
- Contact a professional snake terminator: If the methods mentioned earlier make you uncomfortable, contact a professional instead so they can remove the snakes.
How to Keep Black Rat Snakes Away?
To prevent black rat snake infestations, implement these measures:
- Eliminate potential hiding spots for snakes: These are areas that are cool and damp. Avoid overwatering lawns and other landscapes.
- Keep your yard or lawn clean and well-maintained: Regularly cut grass short, trim or prune trees and shrubbery, and remove rock and brush piles.
- Control rodent, bird, and insect populations: Get rid of these potential food sources to prevent attracting black rat snakes from your homes. Remove food residuals and debris.
- Think before landscaping: Avoid placing large rocks and applying mulch in your yard or lawn since these can be potential overwintering and breeding locations for black rat snakes.
- Seal cracks and crevices: Any openings ¼ inch or larger should be sealed with caulking compounds, ⅛ inch hardware cloth, mortar, door sweeps, weather strips, or expanding foam.
- Establish a snakeproof fence: This should be made out of 36-inch high galvanized hardware cloth and 1⁄4-inch mesh. Bury the fence 6 inches into the soil.
- Use snake repellents: Both commercial and DIY-at-home repellents have been tested for their effectiveness. None of them successfully deterred any snakes, venomous or not. But it certainly doesn’t hurt to try!
List of Sources
Cerato, M., & Andelt, W. F. (2014). Coping With Snakes.
Collins-Smith, S. M. (2022). Venomous Snakes: How Can You Tell?
Dunn, T. (n.d.). Rat Snake (Elaphe [Pantherophis] obsoleta).
Julian, G. S. (2023). Questions on Snakes.
Mann, A. (n.d.). Black Ratsnake: Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta*
Messmer, T. (2018). 12 Ways to Stop Snakes From Slithering Into Your Yard.
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