Black rat snake, Pantherophis obsoletus


Common names Black rat snake, Western rat snake, Pilot black snake
Scientific names Pantherophis obsoletus (previously Elaphe obsoleta)
Country North America
Captive-bred Yes
Adult size 150-180cm (5-6ft)
Natural habitat Woodlands, fields and rocky outcrops
Housing 120 x 60 x 60cm (4 x 2 x 2ft)
Ideal temperature 30-32°C (86-89°F) (warm end); 22-25°C (71-77°F) (cool end)
UVI 2-3
Ideal humidity 40-50%
Diet Carnivorous
Average lifespan 15-20 years
Personality Docile, youngsters can be defensive
Ease of handling Easy
Cohabitable No


Do Black rat snakes make good pets?

Black rat snake, Pantherophis obsoletus are a close relative to the ever-popular Corn snake, and is found throughout Central North America where their preferred habitat includes heavily wooded areas, flat farmland, abandoned buildings and rocky outcrops. They are an active species that love to climb, so make great display animals that are always on show.

Young Black rat snakes can be a little defensive, but they usually tame down easily enough, although they are the longest snakes in the genus Pantherophis, so they make a better pet for intermediate and experienced hobbyists.

Similar to other Rat snakes, Black rat snakes can secrete a foul smelling musk when they feel threatened, which is an interesting adaptation to deter predators, which could include other snakes, hawks and owls.

At Swell Reptiles, all of our Black rat snakes were captive bred in the UK, leaving you safe in the knowledge that your new snake came from a reliable source, with a minimal negative impact on their native ecosystem.

What size vivarium does a Black rat snake need?

Black rat snakes are one of the largest species of Rat snake, with the potential to reach 180cm (6ft) in length and are also very active. Therefore, they should be provided with a large vivarium so they have plenty of space to stretch out and explore. We recommend a minimum adult enclosure size of 120 x 60 x 60cm (4 x 2 x 2ft), for example, the VivExotic Repti-Home Bearded Dragon Vivarium Large.

What temperatures do Black rat snakes need?

As with all reptiles, Black rat snakes are ectothermic and rely on external sources to regulate their own body temperature. Their enclosures should, therefore, have a temperature gradient that runs from warm to cool from one end of the enclosure to the other.

The ideal basking temperature for a Black rat snake is between 30-32°C (86-89°F) and a cool end temperature between 22-25°C (71-77°F). This should be achieved using either a basking lamp or ceramic heater installed into the vivarium ceiling and connected to the relevant thermostat (a dimming thermostat for a basking lamp, a pulse thermostat for a ceramic heater).


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