Texas Rat Snake

Order:  Squamata (scaled reptiles)
Suborder:  Serpentes (snakes)
Family:  Colubridae ("typical" snakes)
Subfamily:  Colubrinae ("typical" snakes)
Genus:  Elaphe (corn, fox, and rat snakes)
Also Known As:  chicken snake (for its affinity with chicken coops, where it may prey on chicks as well as rodents)

Scientific Name:  Elaphe obsoleta lindheimerii (Baird & Girard, 1853)

Habitat:  A wide range; from forests to arid lands, often around human habitation, to where it is attracted by the presence of rodents.

Elaphos="deer" (possibly alluding to these snakes' speed), obsoleta="faded," lindheimeri in honor of Ferdinand J. Lindheimer who collected the first specimen

Length:  Up to approximately 8 feet.
Food:  Rodents, birds, and lizards. Rat Snake Range

I have found MANY of these snakes, primarily through my work with my herp club's Reptile Rescue program.  People often call for us to come get a "rattlesnake" out of their yard/garage, and these are what they turn out to be.  To the casual observer, I suppose they can be easily mistaken for rattlesnakes, due both to appearance and behavior.

Texas Rat Snake
These pictures are of juvenile rat snakes.  I have found them in and around houses, probably feeding on the plentiful anoles and geckos found around neighborhoods here in San Antonio.  Notice the blotched pattern.  This pattern usually fades as the snakes grow, with the adults possessing only drab blotches.  The blotched pattern is what causes people to think they have found a western diamondback rattlesnake. Texas Rat Snake

Not only do these snakes get big and look mean, but they act mean as well.  Even a small Texas rat snake will not hesitate to bite.  Usually this is prefaced by appropriate warnings, such as rearing up the front third of the body (like a rattler), inflating that part of the body to look more imposing, and even rattling the tail (like a rattler, but unless it's rattling on a bed of dry leaves, it doesn't make any noise).

Texas Rat Snake
This picture is of a 5-foot female captured in San Antonio as a nuisance snake.  It was relocated to farmland and released. Adult Texas Rat Snake

 These next two pictures were sent to me by a friend.  They were taken by Beaux Graham of Cedar Creek, Texas.  The picture at right shows two Texas rats infiltrating a chicken coop.

Here Come the Chicken Snakes
Finally, here's a picture of how the "chicken snake" got its name.  It's hard to tell which is more surprised--the chicken or the snake! Chicken Snake in Chicken Nest