Yellow Rat Snake

jenv14(9)March 20, 2009

I was poking around in the back today, planting a pineapple top and looking for the cardinal nest, when I noticed a rat snake hanging out of a shrub. I was good, no screaming or yelling, just a rapid retreat. Technically he was in the conservation area that my yard backs up to, so I can't complain that he was in my yard. I bet he was the one who shed his skin in my big compost bin.

How long do they usually stay in one area? If I could convince myself that he was just checking things out, not getting ready to move into the new butterfly garden I should be able to go back out there this week. Also, are they biters? I know it isn't poisonous, but the chance of getting bitten is very scary.

I know, snake phobia and Florida don't mix, but this is where hubby works, and I want to keep him.

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KaraLynn(z9 FL, Inverness, Citrus)

How do you feel about rodents? Because that's what the big rat snake is probably eating. Either that or other snakes. If you found it's shed skin in your compost bin then there is a chance that there were mice in the bin and the snake was getting rid of them for you. So when you look at it that way the snake is doing you a favor by keeping down the population of the possibly disease carrying rodents.

Maybe if you think about it that way then the thought of the snake being around won't bother you as much.

Even if the snake does hang around it's not likely that you will see it all that much. Usually snakes are a bit shy around humans and take off before you ever see them.

My mom's terrified of snakes as well but has now gotten to the point where she doesn't run in fear whenever she sees one. Now she just yells for either me or dad to come and relocate them. Since you were calm about your retreat I'd say that you're handling the situation pretty good. It's good that even though you don't like snakes you're able to tell the difference between the venomous and non-venomous snakes. As for a rat snake biting you, I've handled several of them and have never been bitten. Since I doubt you have any intention of touching one the chances of you being bit are pretty low.

Hope this helps.


    Bookmark   March 20, 2009 at 11:29AM
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Yes, that helps a lot. I've heard that the snakes are more afraid of me than I am of them, but that seems unlikely. I will not be touching a snake, lizard, or anything else like that unless it touches me first.

There probably were mice in my bin, since it doesn't get turned often. It is the classic catch-22. I don't go to the pile often, because I don't like snakes, etc. So, the pile is cool enough for rodents to nest, and the snakes come to eat them. Maybe it is time for smaller piles, farther from the woods.


    Bookmark   March 20, 2009 at 11:35AM
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Good snakes to have around.
A rodent remover.
If there was no food there would be no snake
however, make no mistake that it is also fond of birds and thus it is a excellent climber (yellow rat snake).
I have known bird hobbyist who are not very keen for yellow rat snake in paticular because the aviary is the "putting the fox in the hen house".

Incredible to watch one move its muscular structure straight up a pine tree using the trees bark plating.
Not near as high strung as the black racer at striking yet a yellow rat does not like to be cornered. This isn't a concern really they are mild mannered non-venomous snakes.
As mentioned they are not much on biting, they are more interested in getting as far away from you as you are from them.
Overall secretive and discreet.
You cannot go wrong with rat or king snakes in your ecocystem

    Bookmark   March 20, 2009 at 1:00PM
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manature(9B Sanford, FL)

I would come get the snake and have him in my yard if I could, believe me. I love rat snakes. So agile and graceful, and beautiful, too. As everyone has said, he is after rodents and other small animals. Yes, they will eat birds if they can get them, but they aren't called "rat" snakes for nothing. That's where they will be focusing their atttention, for sure, and thus, they are great to have around.

Yellow rats can bite if handled, and I know this firsthand, believe me. But as long as you aren't trying to corner and catch the snake, he will not be trying to bite you. He will go the other way as fast as he can, once he is sure the coast is clear and you aren't going to whack him with a big stick. Unlike black racers, they do tame down and become good pets in captivity, and even seem to enjoy being handled. Of course, with your feelings about snakes, he's not going to have to worry about that.

Just trust your instincts and give him a wide berth. He will be safe and you will be happy. But if he has claimed your yard as his hunting territory, he will probably stick around as long as the food does, unless he feels seriously threatened. One thing to remember...he probably didn't just move in. If he is a nice sized snake, he has probably been there for awhile, and this is the first time you've ever seen him. It could be the last, too, as he will try to avoid you.

Thanks for having learned that he is not harmful and that there is no need to kill him. These useful snakes get a raw deal most of the time, and I'm glad yours is keeping watch over your yard for you. Think of him as your guard snake. Maybe that will help, too.


    Bookmark   March 20, 2009 at 3:23PM
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nfmgirl(10b Cape Coral, FL)

Love rat snakes! I grew up with a brother in South Florida, which means that I grew up with rat snakes. They tend to be very mild-mannered and calm snakes. That's why young boys are always going out into the woods and finding them and just bringing them home. They *can* bite, but I think that they are much less likely to bite than most snakes. They are one of my favorite snakes.

Black snakes are another! My boyfriend just got a picture of this behind my shed:

We think he/she is living under my shed. Yeah!


    Bookmark   March 21, 2009 at 9:04AM
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I want a yellow rat snake! I used to have them at my housse on the lake.
One day I was at my potting bench under an orange tree when one fell on my table next to me! It had just caught a mouse and was proceeding to squeeze the life out of it. I took pictures of the whole thing but lost them to a computer crash!

    Bookmark   March 21, 2009 at 12:07PM
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I adore snakes and lizards .
Bird feeders equal mice and rats and it's nice to have several
rat snakes around to control them .
I watched a 6 foot long yellow rat snake climb straight up
an oak tree after a mouse . I was cheering for the snake .
I think snakes also eat moles and voles and other annoying critters .
Live and let live in the circle of life .

    Bookmark   March 21, 2009 at 2:26PM
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manature(9B Sanford, FL)

Just as a precaution, again let me say that yellow rat snakes DO bite when cornered. While they tame down really nicely (and quickly) in captivity, adult rat snakes do NOT want to be caught or cornered and will bite if threatened. Especially the larger ones, and they get VERY large. Over 8 feet in length, making them about the 2nd longest non-venomous snake in the U.S.

When cornered, the first thing they will do is curl up and vibrate their tails like crazy. If they happen to be in dead leaves or grass, this will make a sound similar to a rattlesnake. They are warning you to leave them alone. If you persist and reach for them, they will strike like crazy, and having been bitten by a large one, I can tell you, it hurts. (Plus it hurts the snake, as well, since their teeth curve backwards into their mouths and often are broken or pulled right out when they bite a person.) Of course, I was only bitten because I picked a big one up incorrectly and it whipped its head around and nailed me. I should have left it alone!

The best rule of thumb for MOST of us is to leave them alone. They don't want to bother you, and won't if you don't bother them. Black racers will strike repeatedly and bite, too, if cornered. But it's been my experience that, unlike the rat snake, they don't make nice pets. They don't like captivity and never seem to become docile. (I'm not saying no one has ever had a tame one, of course. This is just as a general rule.)

Anyway, your rat snake is patroling your yard, and he is nothing to worry about. He may startle you from time to time, but he won't attack you if you don't try to pick him up or harm him.

Nice pic of the black racer, Heather. I have a couple in this yard but no yellow rat snakes, sadly. That I've seen so far, anyway. The black racers are also doing a great job of yard patrol, and they are welcome here, too.


    Bookmark   March 21, 2009 at 7:13PM
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I just bought a young yellow rat the other day for our son. At first trying to handel him took alot of paying attention to as he is fast. (kinda) My wife is not fond of snakes at ALL. I was wondering, being I drive truck and am away for a week at a time, would it hurt if he is fead a lizard as pose to a pinky mouse when I am not home? My wife WILL NOT go get a mouse so our son can feed it so I thought a lizard caught from the yard? Other than that, he is tamming now, more tolerant to me reaching in and picking him up. Last night he coiled in the palm of my hand and just laid there. Almost as to him sleeping. It was neat. I'm having fun with him and so is our son.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2009 at 11:04AM
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happy_girl(Z9 st. cloud)

STORY: In the past I incubated my eggs & raised the chicks. When they were several weeks old they were placed in a raised brooder cage with hardwire cloth bottom & chicken wire sides. One morning I found a yellow rat snake inside the cage. He had eaten two of the chicks & the lumps they made inside his/her body was so large, he was not able to get back out of the cage. The remaining chicks were huddled together in the corner as far from the snake as possible. I hate to admit it, but I killed the snake. I knew it would return if I released it.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2009 at 11:24AM
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I was raised in a northeastern city by a Florida father who was terrified every time we went to his parents' house in the Panhandle that his city children would get bit by a rattler. So he instilled an uncommon fear of snakes in me. It took years in Florida to overcome it.

Now, I scoop them out of the pool and have dealt with one that got in the house (with my pets, I can't imagine why he thought that was a good idea, and after he was mauled a little in the living room, I don't think he probably lived when I dumped him back in the yard. I chalked that up to darwinism _ a snake that thinks it's a good idea to crawl into a home with two cats and a giant dog probably shouldn't breed that stupidity into the rest of the wild population.)

That said, a yellow rat snake is a pretty shy snake, one you may never see again. One of the best things you can do is go back out into your yard. Not only is he scared of you, he doesn't want to hang out in a place where you're going to keep showing up scaring him. I know it's tough, but one of the best ways to reclaim your space, so that you feel comfortable in it, would be to spend more time there. Stamp around even. He'll get the picture and find somewhere else. He may have left already, actually.

And turn that compost pile a few times while you're out there. That will also discourage his food source.

Good luck. I know that this kind of fear is hard to conquer, no matter how irrational you know it is. I've read that baby chimps are scared of two things from the moment they're born, snakes and falling. There is a part of us that just fears snakes. But you can get past that. I did. Even killed a pygmy rattler in my grandmother's carport one time.

And you don't want to live here scared of part of your yard.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2009 at 2:14PM
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manature(9B Sanford, FL)

Ron, if you didn't get care and feeding info when you acquired your snake, I suggest you stop by the Reptile Forum here at GW. There is a wealth of info there, as many are true herpetologists. Reptiles don't eat nearly as often as mammals, so it might be that there is no need to feed the snake when you are away for short periods. Post your question over on that forum, and I'll bet you'll get some good advice.


    Bookmark   March 22, 2009 at 5:58PM
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nfmgirl(10b Cape Coral, FL)

happy girl: My friend had a similar thing happen. They had a pair of geese out at their place (Charlie and Diane), who proceeded to setup a nest. The resident fox came in one night and Charlie was killed trying to defend the nest. (My friend's husband later killed the fox just for revenge, which made me mad.) When here husband found the nest, there was only one egg remaining, and it was hatching. While he held it in his hands and carried it back to the house, the little gosling hatched out. He was promptly named CJ (Charlie, Jr.). He lived in the tub for his first week, then the husband decided that CJ had to go outside. He built him a little pen in the front yard. CJ used to follow us around the yard. He was so cute!

Well one day the husband came home to find a large snake inside of CJ's pen, and no CJ-- just a lump in the snake's belly. The snake was too large afterward to get out of CJ's pen. He killed the snake, of course, which made me mad. (Of course, this was the same guy who used the turtles in the pond as target practice.) I used to tell him that you can't put out a buffet and then get ticked off when the animals come to eat!

Poor CJ, though. A poor little chicks for you!

    Bookmark   March 24, 2009 at 2:30PM
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Thank you Marcia. I will do just that. Still having fun with him. :)

    Bookmark   March 24, 2009 at 11:03PM
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Marcia, please research the information you give before giving it, yellow ratsnakes do not reach 8 foot, texas and everglades can hit 8 foot, yellows max out at 6/7 feet, also you are much more likely to be nailed by a smaller rather than a large one, due to it being extra nervous as a hatchling / youngster , and also much faster due to the lack of weight

Also coiling up and vibrating the tail is not the first defensive trait, firstly they will kink up and lay still, ready to coil into strike posture, then they may or may not vibrate the tail, depends how far away you are and how much time it has to work out the situation

But everything else was good, best way to not be bitten if you know its there, is move very surely and slowly, NEVER loom over them, try not to approach them from above, and allways look at the head, also , remember they can strike basically their own length from wherever they are, but when you look at it, it may be difficult to actually see how long it is, so 10 feet is a safe bet

    Bookmark   May 9, 2011 at 2:57AM
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