Black snakes occur on all continents. In North AmericaColuber constrictor constrictorthe black racer or black pilot snake, and Elaphe obsoletathe black rat snake, have black-coloured forms that are mainly located in eastern North America.
Outside of this region, populations of these species are coloured differently. See also racer ; rat snake. Black snake. Article Media. Info Print Cite. Submit Feedback. Thank you for your feedback. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica Encyclopaedia Britannica's editors oversee subject areas in which they have extensive knowledge, whether from years of experience gained by working on that content or via study for an advanced degree See Article History.
Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. The eastern subspecies is called black snake; it is all black except for a patch of white on its chin and throat. For the similar black rat snake, see rat snake. The young of all subspecies are blotched or spotted. This association gave rise to one of its common names, pilot black snake, and the superstition that this nonvenomous species led the venomous ones to the den.
Adults of Pantherophis obsoletus can become quite large, with a reported typical total length including tail of The record total length is Juveniles are strongly patterned with brown blotches on a gray background like miniature fox snakes: P.
Darkening occurs rapidly as they grow. Adults are glossy black above with white lips, chin, and throat. Sometimes traces of the "obsolete" juvenile pattern are still discernible in the skin between the scales, especially when stretched after a heavy meal. Other common names include: black chicken snake, black coluber, chicken snake, mountain black snake, mountain pilot snake, pilot, rat snake, rusty black snake, scaly black snake, cow snake, schwartze Schlangesleepy John, and white-throated racer.
When not fully grown, rat snakes are subject to predation by many animals, including other snakes. Once they attain maturity, they are readily preyed on by mammalian carnivores including the American minkwhich weighs no more than an adult rat snake and large birds of prey especially red-tailed hawks. If they feel further threatened, they may flee quickly or tail vibrate potentially a form of mimicrywhich makes them sound like rattlesnakes.
They are also capable of producing a foul-smelling musk, which they will release onto predators if picked up. They spread the musk with their tails in Black Snake of deterring the threat. Utilizing its infamous agility and the great strength of its muscular coils, the black rat snake is sometimes able to overwhelm and kill formidable avian predators such as red-tailed hawks Black Snake, great horned owls and red-shouldered hawksthough in many cases the bird is able to kill the snake and both combatants may even die.
This species is a constrictormeaning it squeezes its prey to the point of cardiovascular collapse due to obstructive shock, coiling around small animals and tightening its grip until they can no longer circulate blood and die of profound hypotension, before eating them. Though they will often consume micevolesand ratswestern rat snakes are far from specialists at this kind of prey and will readily consume any small vertebrate they can catch. Other prey opportunistically eaten by this species can include other snakes including both those of their own and other speciesfrogslizardschipmunkssquirrelsjuvenile rabbitsjuvenile opossumssongbirdsand bird eggs.
The rat snake has been noted as perhaps the top predator at purple martin colonies as a single large snake will readily consume a number of eggs, hatchlings, and adults each summer. Several rat snake repelling methods have been offered to those putting Black Snake martin houses, but most are mixed in success. Mating takes place in late May and early June. The male snake wraps its tail around the female with Black Snake vents nearly touching. The male then everts one of its sex organs, a hemipenisinto the female sex organ, cloaca.
The mating lasts a few minutes to a few hours. The eggs hatch about 65 to 70 days later in late August to early October. This species has previously been placed and is still placed by many in the genus Elapheas Elaphe obsoleta. However, Utiger et al. InBurbrink suggested this species be divided into three species based on geographic patterns of mitochondrial DNA diversity.
He assigned new common names and resurrected old scientific names, resulting in the following combinations: eastern ratsnake Elaphe alleghaniensisnow Pantherophis alleghaniensiscentral ratsnake Elaphe spiloidesnow Pantherophis spiloidesand western rat snake Elaphe obsoletanow Pantherophis obsoletus.
However, these three species are not morphologically distinct and overlap in all examined morphological characters. InCollins and Taggart  resurrected the genus Scotophis for Burbrink's three taxa i. Western rat snakes are popular as pets. Their size, calm temperament, and ease of care contribute to this popularity and they also occur in many mutations such as leucisticalbinoand scaleless. They enjoy hiding and burrowing which is usually accommodated with a loose substrate such as aspen wood shavings or newspaper and one or more hide boxes.
Captive rat snakes are generally fed killed or stunned mice because captive-bred mice reduce the risk of exposing the snake to pathogens or live prey-induced injuries. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Pantherophis obsoletus Conservation status, Black Snake. Say in James Natural Heritage Information Centre. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Archived from the original on March 22, Retrieved October 19, Handbook of Black Snake of the United States and Canada. Ithaca and London: Comstock. Elaphe obsoleta obsoletapp. Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 29 November Pantherophis obsoletusp.
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