Texas Rat Snake
Pantherophis obsoleta lindheimeri
The Texas rat snake intergrades with other subspecies of rat snakes like the black rat snake, so the species exact range boundaries are impossible to determine.
These snakes are generalists when it comes to habitat, they are found in a wide variety of habitats from swamps or swampy areas, to woods or forests, stream valleys, grasslands, rocky canyons.
They are even found in urban areas such as Dallas, Fort Worth, or Houston, The presence of oak trees, and most probably rodents is the single most important factor influencing their occurrence in any habitat.
Taxonomy / Etymology
Up until early 2000's both Old and New World rat snakes were commonly classified in the same genus, Elaphe.
But in nowdays American rat snakes are considered much more closely related to king snakes such as the California kingsnake than to the Old World rat snake species.
The species epithet lindheimeri was given to honor Jacob Lindheimer Ferdinand a German-American naturalist, who was the first to collect a Texas rat snake specimen in New Braunfels, Texas.
Diet / Feeding
Texas rat snakes have quite a voracious appetite eating mostly rodents, squirrels and birds. These snakes are very agile climbers, and capable of reaching bird nests found in trees or other high spots very easily.
Adult specimens feed mostly on rats and mice but will have no problem taking down birds and their eggs. As for juvenile snakes they eat mostly pinkies, soft-bodied insects or frogs.
The Texas rat snake is a non-venomous snake, they subdue and kill their prey by constriction, squeezing it until it dies. The Texas rat snake like other snakes species tends to be found around hen houses hunting rodents, chicken eggs or chicks which leads them to be sometimes called the chicken snake.
Like all snakes, they play an important role in their ecosystem by keeping the rodent population at a low level. This makes these snakes quite welcome on farms because they help control the rodent population.
Like other rat snakes they use their sight and the Jacobson's organ inside their mouth to detect prey.
The Texas rat snake breeds in the spring, shortly after emerging from their winter hibernation. They are egg layers females will lay from 5 to 20 eggs per clutch.
The eggs are laid in a moist and secluded place such as such as tree hollows or under a rock. The eggs are left unattended until they hatch in August or September.
The hatchlings are about 12 to 18 inches long and are lighter in color than the adult snakes, but they have an equally aggressive behavior.
Conservation / Threats
The Texas rat snake has not yet been assessed for the IUCN Red List. But due to the lack of knowledge and fear of snakes, Texas rat snakes are still victims of human persecution when mistaken with other venomous snakes like copperheads.
Did You Know?
Because of the "Mojave toxin" the Mojave rattlesnake venom is regarded as the most toxic of any rattlesnake.