Pantherophis alleghaniensis

Common Names: Eastern ratsnake, eastern rat snake, black rat snake, pilot snake, pilot rat snake, chicken snake
Category: Reptiles
Sub-category: Snakes

A nonvenomous colubrid species endemic to North America. Adult snakes commonly measure 91.4 to 183 cm in total length (including tail), with a few exceeding 200 cm. Adults are shiny black dorsally, with a cream or white chin and throat. The belly has an irregular black and white checkerboard pattern, becoming uniformly slate gray towards the tail. Juveniles have dark dorsal blotches on a grayish ground color. The ventral pattern in juveniles is the same as in adults. The eyes are round with a black pupil, and particularly in juveniles but not always present in adults, a distinct white margin. The dorsal scales are weakly keeled, and are arranged in 23 to 27 rows at midbody. Males and females have the same coloration. Males have proportionally longer tails (16 to 19% of total body length) compared to females (14 to 18% of total body length).

The eastern rat snake occurs in a variety of habitats. These include farmlands, hardwood forests, forested wetlands, thickets and fields adjacent to forests, isolated urban woodlots and backyards that support populations of prey species. Eastern rat snakes do especially well in early successional and edge habitats. An arboreal species, the snakes get into human residences.

Edible Notes: Like other snakes, they are likely edible, however caution is advised as they may have ingested mice/rats which could have consumed poisons (warfarin being a common rat poison).
Warnings: Eastern ratsnake is non-venomous however it does have small sharp teeth and can potentially deliver a painful bite, although not generally considered dangerous to humans. Like all reptiles, they carry a risk of Salmonella on their skin/scales.