Texas Rat Snake (Elaphe obsoleta lindheimeri)
Temple, Texas (Early April, 2002)

The sound of this snake vibrating his tail is very noticeable when the tail touches a nearby object that transmits the sound. However, even if no inanimate object is nearby, the vibrating tail makes a noise that attracts your attention. Perhaps sound is amplified as the vibrating tail touches another part of his body.

More than 40 dark brown saddle-like markings extend from his head to the tip of his tail, on his upper surfaces. Most are symmetric, but two, one about one-third the length from the head, the other about two-thirds the length from the head, are of slightly different shapes. The markings on the head are similar to those of the Great Plains rat snake (Elaphe guttata emoryi), which causes some, myself initially included, to misidentify it. In the latter species, however, these markings separate at the forehead to form spear points or, in some, they come together but nearly separate at their junction. As this snake matured its head markings became muted and, finally, disappeared altogether, making it obvious it is a Texas rat snake (Elaphe obsoleta lindheimeri).

Its belly is white with a slew of light-brown markings scattered somewhat randomly about its surface. They are similar to,  but not as conspicuous as, the markings found on the belly of a corn snake.

 

 

 This juvenile snake was found on the grounds of a nursing home when ambient temperatures were below 59 degrees F. Back at the lab, at temperatures in the high 70's, the snake became very active. It explored the confines of the 10-gallon terrarium enclosure I put it in, and aggressively snapped at my hand when I ventured to pick it up. Its mouth tried to get a purchase on my skin, but its tiny teeth were not up to the task. It is non-venomous, but very aggressive until handled enough to tame down a bit. If I don't handle this snake for a week or so, it reverts back to a more aggressive personality. Besides biting, he emits an odorous musk and vibrates the tip of his tail, producing a sound vaguely similar to that of a rattlesnake.

The snake's first meal in captivity was a small mouse, just weaned from its mother. I placed the live mouse in his enclosure, and he eyed it for a few minutes before striking at its head. If you are squeamish, read no further... He bit the mouse over its eyes and mouth and, holding on tightly, wound his body around the mouse in a tight constriction. After a few seconds, he relaxed his constriction, released the head, and slithered to the other side of the enclosure. From this vantage point he watched the mouse, now mortally wounded, stagger about for a few minutes before collapsing.  Its head had been bruised by "Fang's" jaws, and the constriction likely caused severe internal injuries. 

After the mouse collapsed, the snake returned, opened his mouth wide, and began to swallow it. I did not photograph this act because it was so gruesome. The mouse was probably too large for him, but he swallowed it anyway. I mention this because this was the last time he swallowed a mouse this large. He will still kill large mice but he won't eat them. Now I have to feed him "pinkies", un-weaned mice that are no larger around than his trunk (the suggested size of prey for a snake). 

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