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Texas Rat Snake Care Sheet

Scientific Facts

Common Name:Texas Rat Snake
Scientific Name:Elaphe obsoleta lindheimeri
Life Span:10-15 years (in the wild)
30 years or more (in captivity)
Size:Grows more than 77 inches (2m)
Habitat:Forests, grasslands, suburbia, and urban areas
Country of Origin:Texas (throughout)

Physical Description

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The Texas Rat Snake belongs to the medium to large snake categories. Their average length ranges from 4-5 feet.  Although this type of snake has varying colors and markings, in general, they are yellow or tan with brown colors. Experienced snake breeders can easily distinguish them for having irregular blotching from its head down to the tail.

The Texas Rat Snakes from the southern area has a more yellow color, and those in the northern areas have a darker color. A good indicator that distinguishes the Texas Rat Snake from other rat snakes is that they are the only snake type that comes with a grey head. While some species under the Texas Rat Snake have a red or orange marking.

The colors of their stomach can either be solid gray or white, and some of their natural variations will include high orange, albinos, leucism or hypo-melanistic. The species that have been located in Sabine County; Texas comes with a rich black color.

Variations

Leucistic Texas Rat Snake

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A leucistic rat snake has often been mistaken as an albino snake, but the real reason why it looks like this is that it partially lacks pigment.

Albino Texas Rat Snake

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One good indicator that the Texas Rat Snake is albino is that it has pink eyes and the obvious absence of pigment.

Hypo-melanistic Texas Rat Snake

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The hypo-melanistic Texas Rat Snake has a reduced pigmentation in comparison to the normal rat snakes that can be found in the wild. Offspring of rat snakes with different patterns with usually results in a hypo-melanistic one.

Life Span

If the Texas Rat Snake is kept in the wild, it can live up to 10-15 years, and the captive ones that are taken care of properly can live for more than 30 years. Their life span will be greatly dependent on environmental factors where they live.

Eating Habits

Known as an excessively eager eater, the Texas Rat Snake can be seen devouring a large number of rodents, birds and even lizards. They also love munching on soft-bodied insects and frogs which they kill via constriction.

Since constriction is their method of killing their prey, the first step that they do is squeeze them until they die, then swallow them whole. The prey will die immediately when squeezed since the blood will not get into the brain, thus, they will pass out due to deficient blood supply.

One can see Texas Rat Snakes climbing trees and reaching birds nest at ease. They can also be located in different types of habitats including farmlands where they feed on chickens that’s why they have been tagged as the chicken snake.

An incredible trait of Texas Rat Snake is that they can patiently wait before feeding on their prey. They have been observed once they kill their prey; they will just continue on with their hunting business and look for other food items to devour on.

The Texas Rat Snake cloaks its body with the prey’s scent, so other animals will not notice them. This will allow them to kill more prey in just one hunting. 

Predation Pattern

The Texas Rat Snakes are known as agile climbers that love feeding on bird eggs. It was observed to have eaten a songbird’s eggs in a single nest within a few minutes. They give much focus on older nestlings since these make more noises that attract them easily.

Close Encounters

These snakes can get sneaky as they enter people’s homes frequently. Since they are good climbers and the number of preys is ample in residential areas. One disadvantage of their journey to residential areas is that a good number of Texas Rat Snakes have been killed in traffic.

Texas Rat Snakes Bites

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Once a Texas Rat Snake feel uncomfortable or threatened, they can become aggressive and biting may follow immediately. They don’t belong to the venomous category of snakes, but their bites can be very painful. The reason for this is that saliva may have bacteria that can cause an infection, and this needs to be treated straightaway. 

If threatened by a predator, the Texas Rat Snake can give off an ill-smelling substance, and they use this as musk or as a deterrent.

Dangers to Humans

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Just like any other snakes, the Texas Rat Snake does not bring an immediate threat to human beings since they are not venomous. They are also very calm, and aggression will only occur if they feel cornered or threatened. Those who have been in captive breeding have been reported to be calm and friendly as long as they have been handled frequently.

Novice snake breeders should not have a problem handling a pet rat snake easily, and most of them will only stay relatively small. Seeing humans as a meal will never occur to a Texas Rat Snake because they are too big.

At most, probably the only harm that they can bring humans is salmonella. This is typically associated with raw chicken and eggs. However, salmonella can be present in most snake types that’s why snake breeders are always advised to wash and disinfect their hands before and after contact with their pet snakes.

Sleeping Habits

When placed in warm areas, the Texas Rat Snake is nocturnal, but they can still be observed as being active during the day. One might see them lying around and enjoys basking in the sun.

Development and Reproduction

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They are known to be oviparous snakes that only intend their eggs are laid without having to be incubated inside the female. If the reproduction conditions are appropriate, Texas Rat Snakes can lay up to two clutches of eggs a year. However, there might be instances wherein they’re only able to lay one clutch such as breeding in cold climates wherein snakes are known to lay fewer eggs.

They will normally begin reproducing in late spring, but climate will always be a big factor for this. The reproduction starts with the male attracting the female through pheromones. In the wild, a male rat snake can be seen fighting with another male just to get the attention of a female rat snake.

Five weeks after their copulation, the female rat snake will lay 12-20 eggs and place them in a hidden spot like a hollow log or pile of compost. The neonates will then hatch after 2 months, and rat snakes will not provide any parental care to their offspring.

The young Texas Rat Snakes can grow up to 13 inches (33 centimeters), but in the wild, they are often munched on by hawks or other bigger snakes.

How to Breed

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If you are a snake breeder looking forward to breeding your Texas Rat Snake, you need to make sure that they should be housed properly, given enough nutrients via prey feeding and they have been properly sexed. It’s best to have them checked by a veterinarian or do your research on how to properly sex them. Most of the time, the popping method done after their first shedding is the best way to determine their sex.

Once they reach about 36 inches long and have a weight of 225 grams for males and 300 grams for females, this is one good indicator that they are already sexually mature and ready for breeding. Always make sure that their enclosures are appropriate for their size and conducive for housing two snakes.

Successful breeding will have to entail maximum ventilation on the enclosure. You can either introduce the male to a female’s enclosure or the other way around. Never feed your snakes hours before you breed them, and you can employ communal housing if you don’t need the male to breed another female.

Mature rat snakes can mate up to five times in 24 hours, but after several sexual interactions, the male’s sperm count can be reduced seriously. You can observe them just to make sure that they are really mating but keep in mind that minimal distractions can bother your pet snake.

You will observe that the female has a pumped-up appetite just after 1-3 copulations that happened in 7 days. You should also aim for giving them more calories during this time. You might eventually notice that the female is already preparing to lay the eggs, however, you need to remember that just because your pet snakes have copulated, this will not guarantee that she will lay fertile eggs.

While in the post-partum shed, you should have two containers ready. These can be plastic containers wherein you can place the laid eggs and the other one for the incubation. The former should have a damp sphagnum moss while the latter one should have damp vermiculite and perlite.

Having these two containers prepared in advanced will help you in monitoring the temperature and humidity conditions as these two factors are crucial for a successful egg-laying and incubation. Give the female snakes as much privacy when it’s laying its eggs.

The egg-laying process might only take a few hours up to an entire day, and if you notice that the eggs are correctly positioned, you may leave it in that. If the other eggs are not in contact with the others, you can assist by placing them on top of the incubation substrate, but keep in mind that you should never fully cover them

Make sure that you do weekly monitoring of the eggs to know if they are kept under proper humidity and temperature levels. A healthy exchange of air inside the incubator is needed, and you can do this by opening the container once a week. Keep it open for a minute and fan it continuously. 

After 65-80 days of the egg-laying, the eggs will hatch, and within just 7-13 days you will notice that the neonates will start shedding. You can start feeding them but go with preys that they can easily swallow. Most of the young ones can eagerly eat a frozen or thawed small mouse.

The young rat snakes who refuse to eat within 4-6 weeks will usually have anatomical abnormalities or worse, they can easily die. Not eating anything within this period will only result in a terminal digestive and nutritional damage, you need to ensure that they are kept in an enclosure that encourages them to eat prey.

Common Health Problems

These snakes can become pretty healthy and very resistant to diseases of they are housed in a well-maintained and sanitized environment. Most of the common reasons why they become sickly are inappropriate temperature, filthy enclosures, untreated, minor injuries, and stress.

Mouth Rot

Although this can be stopped and treated immediately, the mouth rot is caused by a bacterial infection that is normally a result of feeding injuries. Common symptoms of mouth rot are pinhead-sized dots on the gums or a thick layer of mucus on the inside of their lips. You might observe that your pet snake having an excessive swelling on its mouth and refuses to eat.

Parasites

Parasites are usually seen on snakes that are living in the wild, and this is not a normal case for those who have been captive-hatched. You might notice a tiny red or white dot on the scales of your snakes, and once you notice these moving around, this is already a good indication that your snake harbors parasite.

Treating mild infections is easy by using miticides that can be bought over the counter. Just to make sure, you can have you snake checked by a veterinarian, and he will prescribe over the counter medication for your pet snake.

You can also do a regular examination on your snake, use a magnifying lens if you have to guarantee that no parasite piggybacks on them.

Blister Disease

Having too much moisture in their tanks causes blistering disease, and this is usually called vesicular dermatitis. These may be difficult to spot, especially if they are in the snake’s stomach. They will have a tiny, pus-filled blister that easily goes undetected unless it becomes a full-blown bacterial infection.

Shedding

Some snakes have a difficult time in shedding their skin completely, and they have a tendency to retain dead skin on the tail or on their eye. This may not seem like a crucial problem for non-snake breeders but if your pet snake has its old skin retain on certain parts, this dead skin will eventually stop the blood supply and might lead to possible amputation.

If you notice that your pet snake is having a hard time shedding, allow it to soak in lukewarm water for 5-10 minutes. This might help in loosening the dead skin, and you can slowly pull it away. You can always seek consultation with the veterinarian to help you with what to do during this process.

Texas Rat Snake Wellness

Providing you Texas Rat Snake, a stress-free environment will ensure the wellness of your snake. You should always be on the lookout of the following behavior to guarantee that they are healthy.

A consistent behavior should be displayed together with a clear, alert eye, and you should be able to monitor regular shedding. Another good indicator is that you can see them eating and drinking normally and their feces are well-formed; they will usually drop these 2-3 days after eating.

You can immediately bring them to a veterinarian if they refuse to drink or eat, and they are losing weight. Even a small amount of discharge from their nose or mouth should alert you to bring them for a consultation.

Once you see that their drippings have a red color in them or if they are constantly having issues with shedding, bring them to a vet straight away.

Behavior

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Even though the Texas Rat Snakes can be large snakes, they are known to be very timid, but their behavior varies when they are in the wild or held in captivity. The adult ones are assumed to be mild-tempered, but if they see a potential predator approaching, they will display mouth gaping and biting.

Even the young ones can be very docile, but they will bite if they feel disturbed. One of their known defense mechanisms is making a rattling sound by whipping the end of their tails. Since they are good climbers, they can be categorized as semi-arboreal that pertains to them living in trees from time to time. 

They can be seen swimming away from their predators, and reports have shown that they can be good swimmers in different bodies of water.

Brumation Cycle

Like the other snake species, the Texas Rat Snake will start their brumation cycle in the cold winter months. Being cold-blooded animals, they will locate a warm and guaranteed safe place for the winter. However, being in brumation will never guarantee that they are completely dormant for the winter.

During the warmer periods, some Texas Rat Snakes can be seen coming out of their hiding, placing and looking for food. For your captive snakes, this is the time that they can be very harmful so always monitor their behavior after brumation.

Shedding

Most of the snakes spend their time living underground and the time that they go up the surface will either mean, they’re hunting for food or they are about to shed their skin. Depending on their growth rate, the snakes will usually do this every 3 weeks or 2 months. 

They should be able to shed their skin in a single piece, and this skin can be tattered easily by wind or other animals in the wild. For captive snakes, you may assist them in the shedding process, but you need to familiarize yourself with the known signs of shedding.

First, you will observe that their skin will get duller or even faded. Their eyes will have a milky blue color known as the blue phase. Also, you can easily tell that the snake has become reclusive, this is the sign that you can stop feeding. Ensure that the humidity level in their enclosure is at 60% the least.

Next, the snake’s skin will change back to its normal color. This is also anticipated and a good sign that the shedding will eventually start within the next few days. You can help by putting a container with a damp sphagnum moss or paper towels inside their enclosure. This added humidity will be assisting your snake to shed adequately.

Then, the shedding will begin, and your pet snake can be seen pushing his nose up towards different objects inside the tank. Their shedding will usually start at the head up to the tail. After the shed, check the skin and confirm that the tail and eye caps are present. For those who have failed in doing a complete shed, gently bathe them in lukewarm water.

Availability – Where to Get One

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These snakes are still great in number, and they can be easily found in the wild. They can also be legally owned as pets, make sure that you check your federal laws with this though. One of the advantages of having captive-bred or born Texas Rat Snakes is that the chances of them carrying parasites are less likely, and they are known to become very adjusted when kept captive.

Responsible snake breeders can help them survive while kept in captivity by assuring a hygienic environment with a fully-monitored humidity and temperature enclosure. These snakes have also become popular in the pet industry since they are seen with different morph types like albino, scaleless, and leucistic. These are often sold in online reptile stores. 

How to Care for a Texas Rat Snake

Housing and Substrate

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Giving your Texas Rat Snake a lot of hiding room can be beneficial for their health. Although they can be large who loves being active, there will also be instances that they become shy and just wants to hide. They’re also famous for being great escape artists as you might find them squeezing through small cracks, so you have to guarantee their safety by using cage clips with a screen top.

You can use a five-gallon enclosure for freshly hatched Texas Rat Snakes. You can just leave them in this enclosure for a couple of months, but as they grow bigger and older, you will need to consider upgrading to a bigger one. A 20-gallon is best suited for medium size adult snakes while tanks of at least 55-gallons in size are recommended for full-grown adults.

If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative for the substrate, you can place paper at the bottom of the tank. However, in keeping the tank completely sanitized, you need to make sure to replace if it becomes soiled. Using wood shavings like aspen or cypress will give your snake a natural feeling and will encourage burrowing and easy spot-cleaning.

While using wood shaving that has a strong aroma like cedar or pine will only cause harm to your pet snake.

Lighting and Temperatures

Your Texas Rat Snake will not really require a specialized UVB and UVA lighting; however, you need to ensure that you are giving it a good light cycle. Good lighting will assist in the regulation of feeding and breeding behavior. 

If your snake is receiving natural light when their tanks are placed near the window, they can definitely observe when the days have been shorter, and you might notice it refusing to eat as a way of preparing for the winter.

Placing a growing light cycle is beneficial if you want to breed your snake, you can place them under a light exposure for at least 12 hours. Snakes will normally regulate their body temperature when they are moving around in the cold or warm areas in their tanks. Always provide your snake with different temperature ranges to choose from inside their enclosures.

Your Texas Rat Snake will prefer to have temperatures in the mid-80s or 70s for the cool part. You may utilize monitoring devices for heat and lighting to make sure that you are not exposing them to overheating and quickly adjust the temperature if required.

Water and Humidity

Having a Texas Rat Snake as a pet will mean that you have to provide them with clean and fresh water always. The water container should be big enough and allows your snake to soak in and have fun. There will also be times that your snake will play and push objects located inside the tank, so go for a bowl that will can’t be easily knocked over.

You can also opt to have a shed box for your snake and fill it with moist moss or paper towels to ensure that the moisture will remain inside. This helps the snake, especially during the shedding period.

Feeding

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In the wild, the Texas Rat Snakes have a tendency to burn a lot of energy just looking for food, thus they feed on a lot of food in just one meal. They can be seen eating almost any animal (those that they can easily swallow) in the wild. One can see them devouring lizards, birds, and eggs but if you have it in captivity, they will be happy eating on rodents.

The hatchlings can be fed with mice, and you need to wait until they are large enough to munch on rats. Physical retail stores and online pet stores would normally have clean and healthy preys for pet snakes. Giving them live prey may make them act like they are in their natural habitat, but giving them, these might put your snake at risk of getting injures.

Thawed and warmed up food items are best offered to pet snakes, and if you have noticed that they are not that eager to grab on these preys, you can try wiggling them around with a tong to encourage them into striking.

Accessories in their Enclosures

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Hide

A good hiding place will not only encourage your snake to act out naturally but will also be beneficial to their health. You don’t have to be extravagant with their hide as simple cardboard, upturned plant pot with a hole cut or even a plastic hide will do. Hollow logs can also do the job, but these can be difficult to clean.

Water Bowl

Your snake will love soaking in water, drinking or it might seem that they are taking a bath that’s why having a water bowl with clean and freshwater is beneficial.

Shelves and Climbing Apparatus

Being good climbers, your pet snake will love a climbing apparatus inside their tanks. It’s recommended to use tree branches since they give a more natural look for the snake.

Artificial Plants

Real plants may cause harm to your pet snake by harboring bacteria so you can just use artificial ones for the tank.

Backdrop

Snake breeders will normally use artificial stone walls, but landscape posters may be a cheaper alternative.

Light

If you put a light in their cage, you need to assure that your snake will never be able to touch it. Direct contact with light might give them burns, switch off the light at night as this might ruin their body clock.

Handling and Temperament

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Your Texas Rat Snake may become defensive if they are in their enclosure and you will them making a rattling action with their tails. While on thins that seem like a predator to them, they may respond by gaping their mouth.

Even though they are non-venomous, you can see them having no hesitation in striking. Some snake breeders have reported that their Texas Rat Snake will musk when they are handled. A word of advice is to never handle them while they are shedding or right after feeding.

Texas Rat Snakes that are angry or uncomfortable will be best handled via scooping them from behind. Also, it’s a bad idea to pinch a nervous snake as this will just cause them to lash out. This action has also been proven to be harmful since its vertebrate is fragile. Most of them will have their own personalities, and being captive-bred will not give you a 100% guarantee that they will remain calm. Although, most of them will eventually calm down with the help of regular handling.

Texas Rat Snakes as Pets

Texas Rat Snakes will make excellent pets, and the main reasons are:

Behavior

They can easily become well-adapted to being captive. They are not generally aggressive unless of course, they feel irritated or frightened. Texas Rat Snakes are famous for being friendly snakes who have learned how to tolerate handling quite well.

Easy to take Care

When a snake breeder knows what he is doing, taking care of a Texas Rat Snake becomes easy. Typically, a normal Texas Rat Snake will not have any problem with feeding, and you just need to make sure that you are giving it appropriate humidity and temperature levels.

Size

Although they will never grow to be very large, they can still reach up to 5-6 feet in length. This size can be pretty manageable for pet snakes, and novice snake breeders will make find joy in the fact they will not get thick or heavy assuring easy management.

Dangers of Texas Rat Snakes Living Together

Although rat snakes can live together since they are not aggressive and will not initiate an attack unless they feel scared, this is their usual scenario in the wild. For captive breeding, it’s not recommended to place two rat snakes in one enclosure because of the following reasons:

They make commit a mistake of assuming that the other snake is food. This will eventually trigger fighting and is normally seen if one snake is smaller or the other one is experiencing hunger.

Seeing regurgitated food inside the enclosure will not help you in pinpointing which snake is responsible for it. Not knowing which snake has regurgitated his food might only lead to you not knowing which snake is not feeling well.

If you keep two Texas Rat Snake of different sexes under one enclosure, they might mate and initiate breeding at a young age. A very young female rat snake will have difficulty laying eggs, and this might become fatal for her.

Conservation Status

The Texas Rat Snake has not yet been assessed by the IUCN Red List. We also don’t have a lot of information about these snakes, and they are still becoming constant victims of human persecution as they have often been mistaken to belong on the venomous category.

FAQ Section

Will Texas Rat Snakes eat other snakes?

There is no known evidence that will support that a Texas Rat Snake can kill or feed on other snakes. Observations in the wild will entail that they will always prefer to feed on small mammals, birds, lizards over other snakes. 

Do Texas Rat Snakes have fangs?

These snakes are popular for killing their victims via constriction or squeezing them. Some snakes have fangs, and this is used to inject venom into the prey. The Texas Rat Snake does not have venom, and naturally, they don’t have fangs. One close observation will tell that they have teeth, but they are tiny compared to the fangs of other snakes. They have this so they can easily grab onto and hold the prey as they are constricting it.

Can Texas Rat Snakes climb trees?

They are semi-arboreal snakes, and they can be commonly seen climbing trees in the wild. Although they are not as fast in climbing trees like boa constrictors yet climbing trees is a good way for them to move around.

Can Texas Rat Snakes swim?

Yes, they are highly capable of swimming, and many of the rat snake species loves swimming in swamps. Whenever they are hunting, they can be seen swimming in different bodies of water while feeding on the amphibians that live there.

Are Texas Rat Snakes Dangerous?

The Texas Rat Snakes are non-venomous, and they don’t really pose any serious threat to humans. These are also seen in different habitats such as forests, grasslands, and even urban settings. Keep in mind that just like any other animals in the wild, if they see you as a potential threat, they might become aggressive towards you. Captive Texas Rat Snakes have also been known to respond positively to regular handling, so most snake breeders will say that they are not dangerous in comparison to other snake types.

What are some of the benefits of Texas Rat Snakes in suburban areas?

They can help people living in residential areas by feeding on the home-invading rodents as these easily plague suburban communities. They love dining on the rodent population and with the influx of snakes, including the Texas Rat Snake has definitely helped to decrease the number of rodents in residential areas. These rodents will almost always find their way into the home via destroying insulation, wires, PVC plumbing, and wood rafters, as long as the Texas Rat Snake find the rodents before they get inside the houses, they can be of big help.

Why do they make a rattle sound like that of a rattlesnake?

These are smart creatures who somehow knew that people are afraid of the deadly rattle of the rattlesnakes. Not just the Texas Rat Snake, most snakes will mimic the rattlesnake so potential predators will have to think twice before attacking them. One disadvantage of this is that some people who see this will think that the snake is highly dangerous thus will end up killing them. But for the animals living in the wild, they will normally avoid the snake fearing for their lives.

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