Ribbon Snake Conservation - Least Concern
Scientific Name
Pantherophis spiloides
Western Virginia
Also Called
Gray Rat Snake, Midlands Ratsnake
Gray With With Dark Blotches Checkerboard Color on Bottom of Tail
Small Mammals, Birds, Eggs
Litter Size
5 - 27 Eggs per Birth
Life Span
10 - 15 Years
3 - 6 Feet

Quick Links for Gray Ratsnake

Gray Ratsnake

Gray Ratsnake Description

Gray Ratsnake Appearance

This snake, also known as the Gray or Black Rat Snake has a variety of appearances based on geography. Here in Virginia, the Gray Ratsnake is black, with some brownish blotches on the body that sometimes can be seen. Their belly or “venter” is whitish or sometimes a light gray, with dark blotches. At the bottom of their tail, those blotches can form a checkerboard pattern.


This snake is normally between 3 to 6 feet long, the longest ever recorded is about 8.10 feet in Tennessee.

Juveniles tend to be more than 6 – 8 inches long.

Gray Ratsnake in a Bird feeder

This snake used to be known as the Black Ratsnake due to its dark color.

Gray Ratsnake Behavior

These snakes prefer to be on the ground, but they are great climbers, and can be seen on the branches of trees. These snakes are Diurnal or, they prefer to be out in the day. However, during the warm months, this snake becomes active at night due to the heat.

These snakes are solitary creatures and only show up with other snakes during hibernation or when mating.

When threatened, this snake will freeze and moves it’s body in waves. If approached this snake will bluff a strike, and if handled, this snake will bite.

It is illegal in Virginia to keep Wild Snakes as pets

Range and Habitat of The Gray Ratsnake


These snakes can be found in western Virginia, rarely venturing past the Appalachians.

In the rest of the United States, they can be found all over the eastern half of the country. They do not go past the Appalachians, or West of the Mississippi river. They can be found as far north as Ottawa Canada.


This snake is an Agile climber and can be seen on the ground or up in the trees. They particularly like to climb pine trees, but can also be seen near streams, farms, barns, and suburban areas. They can also be found near yard debris such as woodpiles, leaf piles, hallow trees, and old houses.

Gray Ratsnake Map Range

They will appear in smaller numbers in the mountains


They like to eat small mammals and birds, however if opportunity arises, they will also eat bird eggs. This snake kills prey by constriction.

Reproduction and Young


Mating for these snakes occurs in the Spring, and sometimes the Fall. And then will lay their eggs in the summer. They typically lay between 5 – 27 eggs

Eggs and Young

Juveniles will be a light color with dark blotches on their body. As they get older, here in Virginia they will be a dark almost black color, but their blotches can still be seen sometimes. However, some variants will keep their coloration when they get older.
Common Ribbonsnake

In Virginia, they will get darker almost completely black when they get older.

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