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Black (or Central) Rat Snake

Black (or Central) Rat Snake
Pantherophis spiloides

Image of black rat snakeDescription

A large shiny black snake with a white chin and throat. Juveniles have dark blotches on a gray background; traces of this pattern are often visible in adult specimens. This is Michigan's largest snake.

Adult Length:

3.5 to 8 feet.

Habitat and Habits

Rat Snakes live in or near woodlands, often near water. They climb well, and often enter barns and abandoned buildings in search of rodents, a favorite food. If cornered or grabbed these snakes may hiss and strike, but are non-venomous and harmless to humans.


In early summer the females deposit 6 to 24 eggs under rotted wood or other cover. The babies hatch in about 60 days.

Range and Status

Black (Central) Rat Snakes occur in the southern half of the Lower Peninsula, but are rare and declining. They are considered a "species of special concern" and are proteced by law in Michigan.


James Harding
MSU Museum
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824
(517) 353-7978