Wednesday, July 27, 2011

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.


Lisa at Greenbow said...

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.