Texas Black Rat Snake (Habitat, Traits, & FAQs Explained)

Texas rat snakes are medium-large constrictors that eat small animals like rats, mice, and small birds.

Texas rat snake being held in a hand
Texas rat snakes are a relative of the corn snake, and several color forms exist in captivity.

These snakes have little interest in humans and will avoid you as resolutely as you do them.

Coexisting with a Texas Rat Snake

People are often under the impression that it’s hard to live peacefully with snakes, this simply isn’t true.

There’s one golden rule to coexisting peacefully with snakes: If it’s not in danger, or putting children or pets in danger, leave it alone.

coexisting peacefully with snakes
In nature, rat snakes tend to avoid humans and other large predators. In captivity, Western rat snakes are calm animals.
Image credit: u/Never_Never (via Reddit.com)

Rat snakes generally avoid humans if they can help it since they consider them large predators.

However, small children and pets often don’t have the necessary respect and can be a danger.

Western rat snakes are excellent to have around the garden since they help control populations of moles and small rodents.

If you need a snake removed, contact your nearest humane society or snake handler.

How to Identify a Texas Rat Snake

While this snake species can look similar to other black species, there are a few identifying features.  

White-sided Texas Rat Snake (Elaphe obsoleta lindheimeri) on black background.
This species has many different color forms.
  1. This species sometimes has a gray background color, and always has a grey head.
  2. Body-color is often not a reliable indicator of the species. This snake comes in a solid brown to black variant. It can also be yellow or tan, with brown blotches.
  3. These snakes reach lengths of up to five feet, and the male snake is typically longer than the female.
  4. The belly of the snake is white.

Distribution and Habitat of the Texas Rat Snake

The Texas subspecies of this snake, Pantherophis obsoletus lindheimeri, inhabits Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana.

The species as a whole has a much broader distribution throughout the Central United States, extending from the Great Plains to the Mississippi River. 

A Texas rat snake in a tree
This species is semi-arboreal, and prefers habitats with established trees.

With such a distribution, there’s no limit to the habitat rat snakes live in.

Their preferred habitat is semi-arboreal, so the species prefers heavily wooded areas.

They prefer areas with enough large mature trees that can house birds. Whether that’s in the form of a forest or a well-established garden.

Diet of the Texas Rat Snake

These snakes have a diverse diet in the wild, which includes almost any animal small enough for it to catch and swallow.

Captive rat snakes happily feed on pinky and fuzzy rats and mice. Captive-bred mice and other small feeders offer a sufficient diet.

In the wild, these snakes are formidable avian predators, and often take down small birds.

The snake’s diet also includes other snakes, frogs, lizards, moles, and even chipmunks.

Owing to its semi-arboreal lifestyle, this nonvenomous species often raids bird nests.

Is the Texas Rat Snake Poisonous?

No, Texas rat snakes are not poisonous.

Like green tree python and many other Texas snakes, these snakes are non-venomous constrictors that suffocate their prey rather than injecting them with venom.

If one of these snakes bite you, you should still seek medical attention.

The Texas rat snake wrapped around an arm
The western rat snake, black rat snake, and Texas rat snake are constrictors, they squeeze their prey to death.

Despite the lack of venom, there’s a chance that you can have an allergic reaction to the proteins in the snake’s saliva.

When discussing toxins, people often confuse the terms poisonous and venomous. While both of those things can kill you, they’re fundamentally different.

A poison is something that kills you because you ate it. Unless you intend on eating a venomous snake, you should escape that fate unscathed.

Venomous snakes kill their prey by injecting prey into its body. Snakes are venomous, not poisonous.

Texas Rat Snake Vs. Western Rat Snake

The Texas rat snake is only one subspecies of the Western rat snake.

This species goes by various names like the black chicken snake, rusty black snake, pilot black snake, scaly black snake, and black rat snake.

In short, the Texas and Western rat snakes are the same species. There’s some debate about whether there are three distinct species, subspecies, or something not yet uncovered.

The Texas rat snake subspecies is noted for its coloration, which differs from that of Western rat snakes from other regions.

Texas Rat Snake Vs Copperhead

People sometimes confuse copperheads and rat snakes. An adult rat snake can resemble a copperhead.

The copperhead is a venomous species with distinctive bands.

A Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix) snake
Copperheads are distinctive from black snakes, since they have bright brown banding.

Copperheads are shades of brown and tan, with distinct bands that the black rat lacks. You may confuse copperheads and fox snakes, though.

Fox snakes are smaller relatives of the pilot black snake which sport brownbands and blotches. The black pilot is generally darker in color

The copperhead also has a brown, triangular head, rather than the distinctive grey head of the Texas rat snake.

One of the best ways to differentiate copperheads and rat snakes is their body shape. Rat snakes are long and slender, whereas copperheads are short and stocky.

Chicken Snake in Texas

In Texas, the many different species of snake can sometimes lead to some confusion. The Texas Chicken snake is the same species as the  Texas rat snake.

Texas Rat Snake
Texas black snakes have many different names.

This species seems to collect aliases and has more than fifteen different names in various parts of its range.

Do Texas Rat Snakes Swim?

If you have a snake phobia, then the thought of a snake swimming might be a rather frightening one.

The Texas rat snake is at home in the water, and will happily dive into a lake, river, or another water source when the weather gets too warm.

This species also navigates water bodies as a form of escape or to get from one place to another.

Do Texas Rat Snakes Eat Other Snakes?

In many environments, the speed and strength of this snake mean that it’s perhaps the top predator in the trees.

While this species prefers birds, it won’t stint at eating any other animal small enough to swallow. That includes smaller snakes of its own, and other, species.

If you’ve enjoyed this article about the black pilot snake, you’ll enjoy our Florida snake identification guide. It’s loaded with interesting info.

Our article about the Coachwhip snake is also intriguing, and we have a fascinating article about Californian lizards which could be right up your alley.

You might also want to check out our articles about the most dangerous snakes, and snake lifespans.

Which of the American snakes is your favorite? Let us know in the comments.


I’m Stacey, the owner of this website and lifelong reptile lover, caretaker, and educator. Here you will find everything from information on how to care for reptiles, to even how to give your reptiles the best fighting chances against a range of common reptile diseases and illnesses, and everything in between!

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