The Everglades Ratsnake (Elaphe obsoleta rossalleni) may have the most striking appearance of all of the North American rat snakes. Indeed, the most outstanding examples are certainly some of the most beautiful snakes in the world. Hobbyists associate the label Everglades rat snake with a bright orange snake with faintly visible stripes and a red tongue.
Habitat & Range:
South Florida, mainly the Everglades. Prairies of sawgrass, among trees and shrubs, and along waterways. Occasionally in Key Largo.
Life Span: Up to 15-20 years
Rat snakes have a Jacobson’s organ, pair of pit-like organs on the roof of the mouth that are lined with olfactory cells and nerves that interpret chemical stimuli in an animal’s surroundings. Their forked tongue, flickering through the air, picks up scent particles and conveys them to the roof
of their mouth.
Rat snakes have stout bodies, square heads.
Belly scales flat in the middle, ends angled up sharply where they meet the sides of the body. This enables the animal to obtain a better grip for tree climbing.
Truly arboreal, Everglades rat snakes will commonly climb trees to reach and devour birds and their eggs. The snake is known to climb to heights of 60 feet search for prey in trees. Active day or night. Like most snakes, rat snakes are generally solitary.
Reproduction and Development:
Rat snakes begin to seek out a mate, typically in late April, May, and early June. Males tend to wait for the females to pass through their territory, and, by using pheromones, communicate and initiate the mating process with the female. Rat snakes are oviparous or egg-laying animals. Five weeks after mating, the female lays a clutch of about 12 to 20 oblong eggs, usually in rotten logs. The eggs hatch in about 65 to 70 days.
The young rat snakes are grayish rather than yellow, have blotches rather than stripes and are from 11-17 inches long at birth. Sex is determined by the incubation temperature; warmer temperatures result in males and cooler temperatures favor females.