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 Post subject: Black Rats RFI
PostPosted: July 8th, 2012, 9:05 am 
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Joined: April 15th, 2011, 12:29 pm
Posts: 720
Location: Southern Indiana
It's embarrassing but I cannot seem to find a live Black rat Snake, despite looking very hard since March. Most of the time I just hike habitat, I flip tin occasionally but haven't found anything. Anyone have any tip?

Thanks,
Zach


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 Post subject: Re: Black Rats RFI
PostPosted: July 8th, 2012, 10:56 am 

Joined: June 20th, 2012, 10:27 am
Posts: 67
Location: Kentucky
You mostly have to get lucky. I have found one crawling next to my uncles garden, Then found 2 more each up in seperate barn lofts.


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 Post subject: Re: Black Rats RFI
PostPosted: July 8th, 2012, 11:39 am 
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Joined: June 19th, 2010, 6:42 pm
Posts: 848
Location: New Yawk
My work partner and I found about 15 last summer in and around Brown County. However, we were hiking about 5-8 miles a day, every day, 60 hours a week doing telemetry. What sort of habitat are you looking in?


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 Post subject: Re: Black Rats RFI
PostPosted: July 8th, 2012, 12:16 pm 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 4:26 am
Posts: 3318
Location: Illinois
I've seen a lot of the biggest ones on the hottest days. They are often in trees as well. If you're not looking up occassionally you're missing out on a lot of them I'm sure. I know they're found of firewood piles in my area as well. Good luck, I find them commonly.


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 Post subject: Re: Black Rats RFI
PostPosted: July 8th, 2012, 12:37 pm 

Joined: June 10th, 2010, 8:49 pm
Posts: 775
In southern Ohio there seemed to be a period in the summer they disapeared and couldn't be found reliably. They could be found in the spring under cover, then on roads, and when the hot weather hit they just seemed to fizzle out. They can be pretty arboreal and I've heard of loggers cutting big trees and finding them high in the canopies (>50ft). The neonates showed up in the late summer after hatching.

If you're out enough eventually you'll turn one up.


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 Post subject: Re: Black Rats RFI
PostPosted: July 8th, 2012, 12:49 pm 
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Joined: April 15th, 2011, 12:29 pm
Posts: 720
Location: Southern Indiana
John Vanek wrote:
What sort of habitat are you looking in?

Mostly woodlands around some sort of water source. I've seen them in most of my spots before, but only a DOR this year.

Thanks Justin, I've heard that and make it a habit of looking up occasionally, but it hasn't paid off yet.

Thanks Bryan, I've seen them this time of year before, though not when it was this dry.


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 Post subject: Re: Black Rats RFI
PostPosted: July 8th, 2012, 12:51 pm 

Joined: June 10th, 2010, 8:49 pm
Posts: 775
It seems like the toughest snake to find is the one you're looking for.


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 Post subject: Re: Black Rats RFI
PostPosted: July 8th, 2012, 1:16 pm 

Joined: June 7th, 2010, 7:30 pm
Posts: 246
Location: St Louis, MO / Hartford, CT
Frog guy,

I've only seen a couple of your posts so keep that in mind but it seems to me that you spend too much time in wet places which is why you keep finding water snakes and such. I've found lots of black rats near rivers and such but not in the water they are hibernating under bridges or using the rocks above them. They live everywhere forests, fields, etc. You should see them crossing roads from time to time, any road known to be good for snakes will likely produce. However, if that fails look for boards in old fields. Try to find missing planks in billboards, look for old barns missing materials, or just walk around in old fields and flip the boards. If you're near a creek or something still check but check an open sunny area and check rocks that are high and dry and boards in the weeds where it is dry. So your basic snakes in the midwest like kingsnakes and black rats are really best found in open areas that have vegetation but certainly not the type that casts a dense shade such as trees and it shouldn't be consistently soggy under your cover objects. Just a touch of moisture is all you need (not so dry it's dusty). I've likely found 3x more black rats under cover and on roads than those I happened to see while hiking in forests.


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 Post subject: Re: Black Rats RFI
PostPosted: July 8th, 2012, 2:13 pm 
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Joined: June 19th, 2010, 6:42 pm
Posts: 848
Location: New Yawk
Instead of woodlands, I would focus mostly on edge habitats near old fields. Also, as stated above, LOOK UP!


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 Post subject: Re: Black Rats RFI
PostPosted: July 8th, 2012, 2:33 pm 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 10:14 pm
Posts: 2781
Location: San Antonio, TX
My experience with black rats has been further south in Missouri, but I didn't find them under tin very often except on cool spring days. In the summer they are found more often cruising around at dusk. I think they tend to sleep in hollow trees and hollow tree limbs during the heat of the day. I have found them in hollow logs on the ground on a number of occasions.

I knew someone who was pretty knowledgeable about Ratsnakes in general who felt that in the summer (in Texas at least) they spent the days in the trees and came down to the ground at night. I don't know Indiana snakes are any different.


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 Post subject: Re: Black Rats RFI
PostPosted: July 8th, 2012, 3:28 pm 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 8:36 am
Posts: 374
Location: Sunny Myrtle Beach
I have found them by the handful under well covers and in rock fences around old farmhouses in NE Kansas.


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 Post subject: Re: Black Rats RFI
PostPosted: July 8th, 2012, 3:57 pm 

Joined: June 7th, 2010, 6:25 am
Posts: 1044
Location: under a rusty piece of tin, Mobile Bay area
I have never been great at finding rat snakes but from my experience they seem to like farmland/forest edge habitat alot. They eat rodents, so think of places where rodents might be. And definitely pay attention to the birds. Birds will put up a fuss if they see a rat snake (or any other kind of snake, or an owl).


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 Post subject: Re: Black Rats RFI
PostPosted: July 8th, 2012, 5:25 pm 
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Joined: April 27th, 2011, 2:50 pm
Posts: 203
Location: Belton, Mo
I concur, woodland edge habitat, the edge that has the field or pasture with some kind of cover, Ive found them in woodland habitat under rocks, but its best on the edge, where the pasture meets the forest, for most snakes for that matter, most the times Ive seen them in the woods theres been sun exposure on a rocky outcrop, look to these kind of places in fall. Right now wait for some moisture and cruise some back roads (it doesnt have to be raining while your driving, it will most likely be good the next day after a rain as well or more) If it is raining while your cruising try to get in the outskirts of the storm. If you don't know where a good road is just find gravel and get lost, if youve never road cruised before start at around 8 you can stop whenever you want I think most activity will happen before 2 am. Make sure your windshield is clean and start at whatever speed you feel comfortable, on gravel I usually just go around 30
Ive only cruised once this year and found this calligaster around 10pm, there was no moisture but there was a big storm moving in
Image

I found this black rat two days after we got a good rain last summer
Image

Image
it was also found around 10 pm

If you want anymore help pm me
good luck
:beer:


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 Post subject: Re: Black Rats RFI
PostPosted: July 8th, 2012, 6:38 pm 

Joined: June 7th, 2010, 12:37 pm
Posts: 1207
Location: Ft. Smith, Arkansas
I've roadcruised a couple this year, but most of the ones I've seen have been seen in the mornings or early afternoons basking on low hanging branches or on bluffs.

This fatty was basking about 6 feet up on a cypress branch in a SE Arkansas swamp
Image
Pantherophis obsoletus - Western (Texas) ratsnake by michaelrayspencer, on Flickr

This 6.5 footer was basking in this small tree bush thing just a couple feet off the ground on an April morning in Westcentral Arkansas.
Image
Pantherophis obsoletus by michaelrayspencer, on Flickr

and this spindly adult was found basking on a bluff during one of my first outings in March. Northwest Arkansas.
Image
Pantherophis obsoletus in situ by michaelrayspencer, on Flickr


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 Post subject: Re: Black Rats RFI
PostPosted: July 8th, 2012, 11:48 pm 

Joined: August 7th, 2010, 2:48 pm
Posts: 309
Location: Tucson, AZ
Bryan Hamilton wrote:
It seems like the toughest snake to find is the one you're looking for.


Truth in spades! Bryan's wisdom rings maddeningly true.

Black rats are my herp brothers. I grew up with them in the DC area. Few herps I love more. And they are everything you'd hope they'd be. So keep up the faith and the pursuit!

However, look up! These sometime elusive buggers love basking in branches and underbrush right along the forest's edge. They love climbing. You don't have to go deep into the woods for them. Or even terribly high. Look for them basking on any branch exposed to the sun on the forest's edge from 5' to 10' high. . My uncle (hawkeye that he is) can pick them out basking at 40 mph as we speed by on rural roads. "Stop the car!!!" (Screech! He runs into the deep brush, comes out with a black rat). I honestly don't know he does that. But I have seen him do it multiple times. If I could bottle and sell it...

Failing that, hike the edges of woods along floodplains and keep your eyes peeled. Even the big ones will appear out of nowhere in front of you at your feet.

Historically, you're not at all in bad company. The legendary Carl Kauffeld noted in his book Snakes and the Snake Hunting, that for all his herping prowess he had never found a black rat until late in life.


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 Post subject: Re: Black Rats RFI
PostPosted: July 8th, 2012, 11:52 pm 

Joined: August 7th, 2010, 2:48 pm
Posts: 309
Location: Tucson, AZ
Another trick is to just network. If you live in their habitat talk to neigbors and get the word out that you're the area "snake man." Retirees are more than happy to let you know when they show up at the feeder or on the back porch. Such intruders you can often lift up with nary a nip, to the utter amazement of the folks witnessing the rescue.


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 Post subject: Re: Black Rats RFI
PostPosted: July 9th, 2012, 6:45 am 
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Joined: January 1st, 2012, 7:14 am
Posts: 342
Location: Pike County KY
Networking is a great way. Make friends with farmers. Black Rats frequent barns and buildings where there may be corn and animal feed (rodent food). I have found countless Ratsnakes in barn rafters, buildings, under debris next to barns, and house attics. I actually moved one this past week that fell on a lady that opened a door that he was laying over top of. You can learn a lot from farmers that see them regularly.


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 Post subject: Re: Black Rats RFI
PostPosted: July 9th, 2012, 8:12 am 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 4:26 am
Posts: 3318
Location: Illinois
jayder85 wrote:
Networking is a great way. Make friends with farmers. Black Rats frequent barns and buildings where there may be corn and animal feed (rodent food). I have found countless Ratsnakes in barn rafters, buildings, under debris next to barns, and house attics. I actually moved one this past week that fell on a lady that opened a door that he was laying over top of. You can learn a lot from farmers that see them regularly.


Speaking of farmers who are a great resource for accessing land and getting an idea of where they're seeing snakes, I keep hearing that when they roll the giant round bales of hay; that there are snakes under them.


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 Post subject: Re: Black Rats RFI
PostPosted: July 9th, 2012, 8:40 am 
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Joined: January 1st, 2012, 7:14 am
Posts: 342
Location: Pike County KY
justinm wrote:
jayder85 wrote:
Networking is a great way. Make friends with farmers. Black Rats frequent barns and buildings where there may be corn and animal feed (rodent food). I have found countless Ratsnakes in barn rafters, buildings, under debris next to barns, and house attics. I actually moved one this past week that fell on a lady that opened a door that he was laying over top of. You can learn a lot from farmers that see them regularly.


Speaking of farmers who are a great resource for accessing land and getting an idea of where they're seeing snakes, I keep hearing that when they roll the giant round bales of hay; that there are snakes under them.


I have seen this. Of course rodent love to nest in those bales, so a snake would be crazy not to hang around them.

I have multiple farms where I look for snakes and the ones still practicing agriculture contain the most variety. One farm still has cattle running and they cut hay, and at that farm I can turn up racers, rats,corns, milks, kings, etc. Compared to an old rundown farm that I check where majority of the snakes I see are copperheads and racers only.


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 Post subject: Re: Black Rats RFI
PostPosted: July 9th, 2012, 9:25 am 
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Joined: June 11th, 2010, 7:43 am
Posts: 1228
Location: kaukauna, wi
black rats are my nemesis here in wisconsin. even though i am in the proper habitat, i have never found one myself. i'm trying to get used to looking up, which is hard considering i never really had to in wisconsin. one other thing i have been doing is keeping a small mag-lite on hand to check hollows in rotten trees. it hasn't paid off yet, but it will.

-ben


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 Post subject: Re: Black Rats RFI
PostPosted: July 9th, 2012, 4:13 pm 

Joined: February 25th, 2011, 12:03 pm
Posts: 63
This fatty was basking about 6 feet up on a cypress branch in a SE Arkansas swamp

He's a little pudgy, but you didn't have to call him a fatty. Or were you referring to the snake?


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 Post subject: Re: Black Rats RFI
PostPosted: July 9th, 2012, 4:46 pm 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 6:11 pm
Posts: 688
Location: cape cod ma.
train bridges were my sure fire spots for them :)


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 Post subject: Re: Black Rats RFI
PostPosted: July 9th, 2012, 5:58 pm 
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Joined: June 19th, 2012, 4:35 pm
Posts: 27
Location: Shenandoah Co. Virginia
wow mikemike, looks like he thinks he's a squirrel snake, not a rat snake!

Try peeking into (or using a mirror if hots are in the area) driveway / secondary road culverts near fields. if you go slow you often have a shot to get them before they shoot back in.


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 Post subject: Re: Black Rats RFI
PostPosted: July 10th, 2012, 10:08 am 
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Joined: April 15th, 2011, 12:29 pm
Posts: 720
Location: Southern Indiana
Thanks, everyone! Interesting how the active farms turn up more species.


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 Post subject: Re: Black Rats RFI
PostPosted: July 10th, 2012, 12:58 pm 
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Joined: July 10th, 2012, 11:50 am
Posts: 8
I usually find them in old fields and sometimes in trees. I mostly find them in the spring and early summer.


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 Post subject: Re: Black Rats RFI
PostPosted: July 10th, 2012, 1:51 pm 
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Joined: October 9th, 2010, 11:00 am
Posts: 230
Location: Rochester, NY
Love black rats and have caught a fair number in NY, PA, VA, NC, and Maryland. Of all those I found, only ONE of the adults was flipped under some AC. The rest were out cruising or climbing around. I have found only two recent hatchlings - both under natural ground cover. The vast majority were found in relatively open, mixed woodland areas right on, or near trails or dirt roads. A few were found in the lower (e.g. 8'-10') branches of live oaks. 90% were found in late spring or very early summer. The rest in late summer/early fall (September in VA). I caught an immense 6"11" beauty sprawled on a park path near Williamsburg VA in 1976. That snake remains at the top of my "Holy Sh__" list of finds. It was a big, shiny, flawless beauty sprawled out in a straight line accross a path. I was with my 9 month pregnant wife and had no camera to take it's in situ picture. I was able, however, to drive our manual transmission vehicle home with the monster in my hand(s) - my wife was not afraid of snakes but she insisted on sitting in the back seat with this boy in the car. No bites but plenty of tail rattling and hissing. Last year I was able to actually video tape the entire discovery and capture of a small black rat north of Corolla in the outer banks of NC. When I found him he was out in the open in s sandy open woodland featuring small beautiful live oaks (the target of my videotaping).
I agree with the observation of watching for the reactions/cries of other creatures - primarily birds. Found at least one black rat that way (and found a yellow rat like that in FL too).
Lastly....I've never found a black rat when I was actively looking for one, but I've found a fair number while out enjoying the beauty/animals of the habitat I've been exploring. They remain one of my favorites and I consider them the "big game" of harmless snakes in Western NY where I reside.


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 Post subject: Re: Black Rats RFI
PostPosted: July 10th, 2012, 2:57 pm 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 8:13 pm
Posts: 2293
Location: Minnesota
justinm wrote:
I've seen a lot of the biggest ones on the hottest days. They are often in trees as well. If you're not looking up occasionally you're missing out on a lot of them I'm sure. I know they're found of firewood piles in my area as well. Good luck, I find them commonly.


I agree... Look up! <- Staring at the ground can be a tough habitat to break for American herpers! :thumb:

See it?
Image

How about now?
Image


-Chris


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 Post subject: Re: Black Rats RFI
PostPosted: July 10th, 2012, 3:30 pm 

Joined: June 7th, 2010, 7:30 pm
Posts: 246
Location: St Louis, MO / Hartford, CT
They are a pretty common species so I don't take photos often but here's a few where you can see the types of conditions they were found.

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image


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 Post subject: Re: Black Rats RFI
PostPosted: July 10th, 2012, 3:52 pm 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 12:53 pm
Posts: 266
Location: South-Central Kansas
Near the western edge of their range in south-central Kansas they seem to follow the rivers and streams (i.e. riparian habitat). I found a couple cruising in the evening this Spring. I have also seen a lot of DORs in this habitat.

Andrew


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 Post subject: Re: Black Rats RFI
PostPosted: July 11th, 2012, 12:56 pm 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 3:40 pm
Posts: 330
I've found a few under cover and in trees, but your best bet is clearings (not in the woods). Where a field meets a forest is good. They are easier to find in Spring and Fall than in the Summer. Like others have said, they are not the easiest snake to go looking for because they show up where they show up. Here's one I saw crossing a bike path in the Cuyahoga Valley earlier in the year.

Tim

Image


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 Post subject: Re: Black Rats RFI
PostPosted: July 11th, 2012, 1:10 pm 
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Joined: June 9th, 2010, 6:38 am
Posts: 196
Location: Canada
I posted something simlar a couple years back and it has taken me 4 years to find my Ratsnake! I finally broke my curse this spring. Here in Southern Ontario they are very scarce.

Andrew G wrote:
Near the western edge of their range in south-central Kansas they seem to follow the rivers and streams (i.e. riparian habitat). I found a couple cruising in the evening this Spring. I have also seen a lot of DORs in this habitat.

I have also found riparian habitat to be very important for ratnskes here in Southern Ontario. Partly because there is so much agriculture around here that the best quality forest is simply where crops can't be grown. Afternoon to shortly after dusk seems to be the best window to see them on the roads around here.

For hiking the problem seems to be that it's hard to see snakes in this type of riparian habitat unless you go in early spring or late fall. Otherwise it's too dense. Plus cover is harder to come by in the areas that aren't easily accessible by car. Farmers will dump debris at the edges of their fields that border onto this habitat though and I have found that to be productive. Walking forest edge should also be productive in spring and fall when temperatures are cooler and there is less vegetation. The snakes will want to come out to the edge (or clearings) to get good sun exposure. Don't be afraid to look in places you normally wouldn't find many snakes either. For what it's worth I usually only see gartersnakes in the areas where Ratsnakes turn up.

This individual was crossing the road with well forested ravine on both sides. It was a few weeks ago at about 2pm, and it was about 83 degrees that day. This area has a lot of active agriculture so the snakes seem to move along the forest edges, especially where there are creeks and steep slopes.

Image

Image


Jon


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