Fall is Baby Snake Time!


by Ray Bosmans, Professor Emeritus University of Maryland Extension

This article expired on October 15, 2010 and its contents should be considered out-of-date. It is maintained here for archival purposes only.

September 10, 2010

Late summer and early fall is when the eggs of snakes hatch.  The most common large snake in our region has to be the Black Rat Snake.   The mother snake typically lays her eggs in piles of mulch, compost piles, and under logs.  The eggs have a leathery shell.   The average female black rat snake ranges in size from 4-7 feet at maturity.  A mature snake may lay  20-36 eggs in early summer.  Like most other reptiles, she does not protect the eggs nor help rear her babies.  This may sound like she is a neglectful mother but this method has been working very  well for millions of years! The warmth of the ground is all that is needed to make the babies develop.  

Adult black rat snake

Black Rat Snakes are harmlessand non-poisonous, although a wild one may defend itself when threatened.  They used to be limited to country settings but now are commonly found in suburbs, anywhere where they can find their favorite source of food ….rodents.  They play a very important role in managing rat and mouse populations. Never harm these or any other snake.  All native snakes are protected  by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’s Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act. 

Hatchling black rat snake

The interesting thing about the hatchling black rat snake is that it is not black at hatching.  Its background color is a light gray with dark brown or black rectangular blotches down the back and small spots of black on the sides.  They actually are quite attractive.   They gradually turn completely black when they reach an average length of 16-20 inches.

Sometimes the hatchling snakes accidentally find their way inside basements.  If you find one pick it up and place it outdoors.  If you are not willing to touch it gently push it with a broom into a trash can or box and then place it outdoors.  If snakes and other  wildlife keep finding their way into your basement, you need to seal with caulk or weather stripping, all openings around the house foundation.

Although the Black Rat Snake is the most commonly encountered snake in many areas, there are other species that lay eggs that hatch in the fall.  They include:  Eastern King Snake, Hog Nose Snake, Ring Neck Snake and Black Racer.  The live-bearers include: Eastern Garter, Northern Brown Snake, Water Snake, Copperhead and Timber Rattlesnake.  To learn more about snakes watch our videos and read HG 64.
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For more information, contact: Raymond Bosmans