Madi Bacci, Seasonal Environmental Educator or Stewardship & Restoration Intern
April 9, 2020

Recently on our Your Outdoor Classroom LIVE: Snacks with Snakes on Facebook, we got up close with Onyx & Obsidian, our 8-month-old baby gray rat snakes (Pantherophis spiloides) and talked about the AMAZING adaptations that allow snakes to eat items larger than their heads! An adaptation is a heritable physical or behavioral trait that serves a specific function and improves an organism’s fitness or survival. We were lucky to see Obsidian’s AMAZING jaws in action as he ate two pinkie mice in a row!

Snake skull from a non-venomous gray rat snake. Photo credit: Skulls Unlimited.

I wanted to answer a few questions that I wasn’t able to answer, and provide some resources to learn even more about snakes and how they eat their snacks!

James (age 4) asked, “What are their predators?”

-Hi James! I’m so glad you liked Obsidian. Since rat snakes are such good swimmers & climbers, they have a great chance of escaping danger, however, hawks and even other snakes like kingsnakes can catch and eat them. Yep, that’s right – SNAKES eat SNAKES!

California kingsnake eating a rattlesnake!

Hailey (age 10) asked, “What are the longest snakes?”

-Hi Hailey! What are great question! Here in Ohio, gray rat snakes like Obi & Onyx are the longest, averaging 4-6ft in length. The longest gray rat snake on record was about 9ft long! In other parts of the world, snakes like the reticulated python (Malayopython reticulatus) in Southeast Asia can reach up to 30ft in length!

Reticulated python. Photo credit: Thai National Parks

Atalie (age 7) asked, “How do they protect themselves?”

-Hey Atalie, thanks for watching! Gray rat snakes are very calm by nature. However, if they feel threatened they will musk or produce a very stinky scent. They do also have teeth and can bite so its best to leave one alone if you see them outside. Like Ashley said on our video, admiring nature from a safe distance is always appreciated.

Eastern gray rat snake. Photo credit: Judy Gallagher

SciShow Kids: Snake True or False

Watch a Fox snake eat a mouse!

Ohio Division of Wildlife Gray Rat Snake Facts

Thanks for watching, and we hope you’ll tune in to more of Your Outdoor Classroom LIVE!

Keep learning!

Madi Bacci