Texas Rat Snake (Elaphe obsoleta lindheimeri)
 Round Rock, Texas, July 12, 2001

The genus Elaphe includes several species that are commonly found in this area. This specimen was vaguely similar to Elaphe emoryi, but has none of the unusual markings on its head that E. emoryi sports throughout its life. E. obsoleta juveniles have dorsal markings on their heads similar to those of E. emoryi, but they disappear as the snake matures, leaving the head's upper surface uniformly dark gray, black or brown. Another snake, E. obsoleta obsoleta, has blue-black colored markings, where E. obsoleta lindheimeri has brown markings, although various authorities do not agree unanimously on this point. This genus is non-venomous, but can be very aggressive and will strike if provoked. Fortunately, its bite is not dangerous. The two rows of teeth shown in the photo of the head, below, are used to grasp and swallow its prey.

The tail is pointed, and the anal plate is divided, as shown in the photo at lower right. The sex of this specimen cannot be determined without conducting a probe of the cloaca, which was not performed...

This specimen is almost 50 inches long. It has evidently been a resident of this area for several years. It and its relatives are doing their part to keep the population of rats and mice in this area down to a minimum. Compare it with the snake photographed on May 14, 2001. Both snakes are of the same species, but the coloration of this one is a creamy-tan, with a darker grayish-brown mottling.

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This snake was found in the early morning hours, not long after it had snagged a Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) and was preparing to swallow it. Because this species is extremely beneficial (they particularly enjoy eating rodents such as rats and mice) they should not be destroyed even though they will, from time to time, eat our feathered friends who are not careful enough to avoid their jaws. The Carolina Wren fritters about and often nests in the rocks where these snakes hide, making them particularly vulnerable to attack.