ID help - New Jersey

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gzeiger
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Joined: October 21st, 2018, 5:36 pm

ID help - New Jersey

Post by gzeiger » October 23rd, 2018, 12:35 pm

I found this guy presumably warming himself on the concrete floor of my carport when the air temperature had dropped suddenly. I've seen a similar one on one other occasion, but it may have been the same individual. He was stretched out when I found him, and I touched his tail to encourage him to move where he wouldn't get stepped on. I'm used to small snakes fleeing from human touch, but this one reacted by coiling up as you see. When approached with a short stick, he coiled tighter and vibrated his tail very much like a rattlesnake, although there is no rattle, and four times he struck with mouth open at the stick or a dry leaf.

I'm normally a fish guy, and not familiar with what's required for a snake ID, but that behavior is not what I expected from a non-venomous snake and I thought I should get to learning. The only venomous snakes listed in this range (southern New Jersey, Bridgeton area) are copperhead and timber rattlesnake, and the pattern doesn't fit either of those.

Any help would be appreciated.
id snake5.jpg

Jimi
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Joined: December 3rd, 2010, 12:06 pm

Re: ID help - New Jersey

Post by Jimi » October 23rd, 2018, 1:15 pm

Rat snake. Harmless/nonven.

Juveniles of many harmless species (rat snakes included) will vigorously pretend to be able to defend themselves. They can't. Adult ratsnakes are also usually happy to offer to bite. There's a little more deterrence value there, but not much.

cheers

gzeiger
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Joined: October 21st, 2018, 5:36 pm

Re: ID help - New Jersey

Post by gzeiger » October 23rd, 2018, 2:50 pm

Thanks. So help me out here - a Google search for "rat snake" turns up one picture that might well be that exact individual, and about a thousand that don't look to me anything like it. I had looked at pictures of rat snakes already and concluded that wasn't it. What are the identifying characteristics, and what's just catching my eye because I'm color-oriented?

I'm assuming this would be Pantherophis alleghaniensis, but even with that much help I don't yet have the tools to be sure of myself.

Thanks again!

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rpecora
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Re: ID help - New Jersey

Post by rpecora » October 23rd, 2018, 10:01 pm

Hatchling to yearling Black Ratsnake. No question.

Image

gzeiger
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Re: ID help - New Jersey

Post by gzeiger » October 24th, 2018, 2:35 am

I'm convinced on the ID. It was more a question for my general knowledge now because I'm interested in the topic. Is there a sticky somewhere I missed?

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Zach_Lim
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Re: ID help - New Jersey

Post by Zach_Lim » October 24th, 2018, 10:32 am

"Rat Snake" is a term used to describe many colubrid (non venomous for the sake of simplicity) snakes found throughout the world. For this case, we will stick to the North American Ratsnakes: Pantherophis (used to be under the genus Elaphe which still may contain Asian species if memory serves me correctly).

There are a variety of rat snakes found throughout the United States- usually along the south and eastern parts of the country. Pantherophis is the genus, and a variety of species exist within the genus. That being said, all the snakes may superficially look the same, or drastically different, but they are within the genus.

The snake you found is the Black Ratsnake (Pantherophis obsoletus). They vary in color and actually look a bit different when they are juveniles.

Another "Rat snake" that is well known in the USA is the Corn Snake- same genus of Pantherophis, but different species (guttatus). Very similar body shape, head shape, general diet, etc as the black rat, but phenotypically looks different (colorful, etc).

Hope this helps?

-Zach

Jimi
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Re: ID help - New Jersey

Post by Jimi » October 24th, 2018, 3:19 pm

I'd also hasten to note - wild USA juvenile rat snakes (various/diverse species, subspecies, intergrades, and localized variants/phenotypes) tend to look a lot alike.

OTOH among - not within - species, the adults can range from fairly uni-colored, to strongly blotched or saddled, to striped. With a range of background colors from straw-yellow to jet black. But they are all on the large side (always among the longest snakes in a place), and all have the same distinct cross-sectional profile - "loaf of bread" or taller than wide, steep on the sides and round on top.
What are the identifying characteristics, and what's just catching my eye because I'm color-oriented?
With just a few more words, we could have told you without the picture. The behavior, the size, and where you found it at this time of year point pretty strongly to one of the more or less human-commensal species of your region - racer or rat snake.

Visually though, there's a lot to work with. Color isn't so important in this case, as head shape, eye size and position, body size and proportions, and body pattern. A B&W image wouldn't have thrown us a millimeter.

cheers

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