Eastern Ratsnake Conservation - Least Concern
Scientific Name
Pantherophis alleghaniensis
All of Virginia
Also Known As
Black Rat snake, Pilot Black Snake, Chicken Snake
Shiny Black Back with White or Cream Belly
Rodents, Insects, Chickens, Eggs
Litter Size
5 - 19 Eggs per Birth
Life Span
34 Years
42 - 72 Inches

Quick Links for Eastern Rat Snake

Eastern Rat Snake

Eastern Rat Snake Description

Eastern Rat Snake Appearance

This is a long black shiny snake with a yellow or white chin. This snake’s belly has a black and white checkerboard pattern that turns gray near the tail.


Juveniles will have the same pattern as the adults, and has a white margin around the eye. This can remain in adults, but it is not common.


This snake is normally between 42 to 72 inches long, however, the record length for this snake is about 101 inches. The record found in Virginia is 79.8 inches. This makes the Eastern Rat Snake the only 6+ foot snake in Virginia.

Juveniles tend to be 11 to 13 inches long.

Eastern Rat Snake in Hand

The checkerboard pattern of the belly is not consistent in all snakes of this species

Eastern Rat Snake Behavior

These snakes are active during the spring and fall, but become nocturnal in the summer due to the heat. There isn’t anywhere in Virginia that these snakes cannot get into, they are excellent swimmers, climbers, and diggers.

During the winter these snakes hibernate where they hide under rocks, boards, yard debris, wherever. These snakes are generally solitary creatures, but it is not unheard of them congregating with other snakes of other species, such as the copperhead.

If these snakes are threatened they will freeze. If the threat continues to come towards them they will release a horrible smell, and if that doesn’t deter then they will strike.

It is illegal in Virginia to keep Wild Snakes as pets

Range and Habitat of The Eastern Rat Snake


These can be found in everywhere in Virginia, but they are not as common in Southwestern Virginia. These snakes are found throughout the East Coast, reaching from Florida to Vermont.


Their habitat is extremely varied, their habitat consists of forests, wetlands, farmland, fields, forest edges, woodland near or in urban areas, and backyards with a lot of food. These snakes could also live in your attic, hunting prey or using it as a nest.

Eastern Rat Snake Map Range

They can be found everywhere in Virginia.


Their diet consists or mice and rodents, frogs, lizards, birds, and eggs. They are also known to eat you chickens and chicks which lead to their nickname “Chicken Snake”

Reproduction and Young


Mating for these snakes occur in the May or June, and they will only mate once for the year. They generally will lay their eggs after one month of conception.

Eggs and Young

Females will lay 5 to 19 eggs in nests on the ground. These nests can be in hollow trees, compost heaps, sawdust piles and decomposing logs. Some of these sites will be used multiple times
Juveniles will have a pattern of black or brown blotches along their back and sides. They also will have a white line that goes to their eye to their mouth.
Eastern Rat Snake

Juveniles are not a solid color but have dark blotches along their back and sides

Snake Problems?

Call Us for a Free Inspection
Schedule Appointment