Skip to main content

Black Rat Snake eats chicken egg

I suppose I ought to put this caveat right up front: if, for some reason, you detest serpents you probably won't like these photos. In fact, I'm sure you won't. So if you are a ophidiophobe, surf no further - turn back, I say! Chances are, you already picked up on the snakiness of this post from the blog's title, and haven't even made it this far. Your loss. This is cool stuff.

My friend Ann Bonner, who is a forester living in Athens County, sends along the following photo. What's more, she thinks this is very cool, and the snake is in HER chicken coop! I love it. Here's what she told me: "Since this guy has been hanging around the last 2 yrs, no rats in the coop. That is worth a few eggs now and again".

When I asked for permission to share this photo, Ann made me guarantee that I wouldn't make the snake out to be a villain. Silly girl! Of course I wouldn't! And I love her mentality regarding the animal. Your average chicken farmer would pulverize that snake with a long-handled rake in the blink of an eye.

The two and a half foot long black rat snake, Pantherophis alleghaniensis, caught in the act of swallowing - whole! - a chicken egg. A small salary to pay, thinks I, for his ratting and mousing services. Black rat snakes are very common in much of Ohio, although like many serpents they've declined considerably in well-settled areas. NOTE: The taxonomy and nomenclature of this species has been somewhat unsettled in recent years, it seems, but these are the common and scientific names that I am using.

We crop down the photo a bit, as I know you really wanted a closer look. Snakes have incredibly flexible lower jaws, and we can see the amazingly elastic expansion of the snake's mouth to accommodate this large chicken egg. That meal would be comparable to you or I swallowing a basketball.

Your narrator holds a black rat snake that I caught a few years ago in Muskingum County. It was crossing a country lane, and I wanted to move it before it got run over. This one was pushing five feet, but black rats can get a lot larger than that. The record is supposedly 8 feet, 4 inches. On two occasions I've seen black rats that were well over six feet in length. Such a big reptile can be understandably intimidating, but normally they are quite docile. The one that I'm holding took one feeble, half-hearted swipe at me when I first picked it up, then settled down and was completely passive.

Thanks to Ann for sharing her photos and story, and I nominate her for the as yet to be created Friend of the Snake Award.

Comments

What fab photos. This reminds me of an incident many years ago when my children were young. We lived in the country and along the edge of the back garden was a big hedge of honeysuckle and blackberry brambles. On top of this mess seemed to be a bicycle tire innertube laying on top. I was furious that the kids had left an old innertube out there so I went to pick it up to toss it into the trash and it was a big black snake. I about fainted when it started moving about the time I reached for it. Not that I was afraid of it but in my mind a innertube shouldn't move by itself. Ha..
Heather said…
Very cool! Kudos to Ann, and to you, for sharing the story.
Lisa said…
Definitely, that's a rare captured moment.

Lisa from Country Guitar Lessons
Clay Shaffer said…
I attend Zane State College and currently working on a life history report on the black rat snake when I was 16 I found a black rat snake over 4ft long while fishing at Buckeye Lake without a thought I caught the snake. I think these snakes are the coolest one I have ever came across I'm glad that this lady never killed the snake.

Popular posts from this blog

The Pinching Beetle, a rather brutish looking bug

The world is awash in beetles, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Few of them can match the intimidation factor of a Pinching Beetle, Lucanus capreolus, though. Those formidable looking mandibles look like they could slice off a finger.

Today was one of those coolly diverse days. I started off down in Fayette County, visiting the farm of a friend. He has restored about 25 acres of wetlands, and the response by the animal community has been nothing short of phenomenal. Blizzards of dragonflies of many species, amphibians galore, and nesting Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, and Sora. Among MANY other things. And all in a short two years. Add water and they will come.

Then, working my way home, I ducked into a Madison County cemetery that has a thriving population of Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels, and shot images of our native prairie dog. Then, I stopped at a spot along Little Darby Creek, waded on in, and procured some pretty nice shots of various stream bluets and dancers. …

Calliope Hummingbird in central Ohio!

A hatch-year male Calliope Hummingbird strikes a pose. Small but tough, the hummingbird was feeding actively yesterday in 39 F temperatures. It frequents feeders and gardens at a home in Delaware County, Ohio, about a half-hour north of Columbus.

Fortunately, the wayward hummer appeared at the home of Tania and Corey Perry. Tania is a birder, and knew right away that the hummingbird was something special. For a while, the identification was up in the air, which isn't surprising. The Calliope Hummingbird used to be placed in its own genus, Stellula, but has recently been submerged into the genus Selasphorus, which includes Allen's, Broad-tailed, and Rufous hummingbirds. The latter two, especially, are quite similar to the Calliope in subadult plumage. Rufous is the default "vagrant" hummingbird here, with dozens of records and birds turning up annually. There is but one Ohio record of Allen's Hummingbird, from late fall/early winter 2009. Ditto the Calliope Hummi…

Ballooning spiders

Fear not, ye arachnophobes. The subject of this entry is indeed about spiders, but the star of the show is about as cute as a spider can get. And you'll want to know what we're about to learn...

On my recent West Virginia foray, we were strolling down a seldom-used lane, when a bright yellow object caught our eye. It was a goldenrod crab spider, Misumena vatia, on top of a post! Not only that, she - it is a girl - was acting extraordinarily goofy. The spider would stilt up as high as she could go on her legs, weave back and forth, jig side to side, and otherwise engage in what appeared to be spider break-dancing.

Click the pic for expansion, and you can see two columns of silk issuing from her spinnerets. This is an important point, as we set about determining what this non-web-making spider is doing.


So fixated was our spider on her task that she even rejected what would seem to me to be a perfectly scrumptious meal. This little caterpillar climbed rapidly up the post and dire…