Snake, Everglades Rat


Elaphe obsoleta rossalleni  


The Everglades rat snake (a.k.a. Glades rat snake or Orange rat snake), Elaphe obsoleta rossalleni, is a large rat snake. It reaches an average length of 4 to 5 feet long, and some specimens may reach lengths of over 6 feet. The record for an Everglades rat snake is just over seven feet long! The ground color of these beautiful snakes is a rich orange, with four indistinct gray longitudinal stripes. The belly is a bright orange or orange-yellow. They also have orange eyes and a red tongue. Neonates start out a pinkish- or orange-buff color with distinct gray blotches. As the snake grows, it will slowly attain the adult coloration. 

Family

Colubridae

Order

Squamata

Class

Reptilia

Range

Extreme southern Florida north into Glades, Martin, and Okeechobee counties

Habitat

The Everglades, Big Cypress Swamp, and wetland prairies to subtropical hardwood forests, cypress swamplands, and pinelands

Life Expectancy

A wild caught adult survived 21 years and 9 months in captivity.

Sexual Maturity

At least by 18 months

Diet

In the wild, hatchlings feed on lizards or pink mice while adults feed on rodents and birds. In the Zoo, they are fed mice and rats.

Status

Not listed

Behaviors

Everglades rat snakes, like yellow rats, are active both day and night. They can be found crossing roads at night and during the day sunning themselves along the tree line or on dirt roads. Breeding usually takes place from March to May with females laying 6 to 30 eggs between May and July. Incubation lasts from 55-60 days. Hatchlings are usually 8-10 inches long.

Adaptions

The Everglades rat snakes are very good swimmers. They will take to water readily to escape danger. They are also great climbers, and are often found high up in Australian pine trees.

Special Interests

Florida has only two species of rat snakes – Elaphe guttata, the red rat snake or corn snake, and Elaphe obsolete, which appears in three different geographic color variations: the yellow, gray and Everglades rat snakes. E. guttata and E. obsolete do not interbreed, however all three E. obsolete do interbreed where their ranges overlap producing many other color variations. Rat snakes are among the most valuable Florida snakes because of their skill in killing rats and mice.

Folklore

In the Caribbean Islands we also find a creature called El Cuchilu, from cuchu = pig and vilu = snake, who appears from the sea. This is an evil god who invades and destroys fishing weirs. It eats the fish inside the weir and kills human fishermen.

Conservation

Pure Everglades rat snakes are becoming rare in the wild due to the expansion of the yellow rat snake (Elaphe obsoleta quadrivittata) into Southern Florida. The yellow rat snake has been interbreeding with the Everglades rat snake to produce much darker individuals than those typical of the pure Everglades form.

Jacksonville Zoo History

This species first appears in the Zoo’s animal collection in March 1957.

Exhibit

Wild Florida