There are 3 types of rat snakes that live in New Mexico.
But before we begin, I wanted to define exactly what I mean when I say “rat snake.”
First, rat snakes are members of the family Colubridae, and most of the species in North America are in the genus Pantherophis.
Second, they are constrictors, and their favorite prey is rodents, such as mice and rats. As you can probably guess, this is how they get the name RAT snakes. 🙂 Because of their affinity for rodents, you can often find rat snakes in New Mexico near barns and abandoned buildings where their favorite food tends to hang out.
Lastly, rat snakes are non-venomous and mostly docile, although they can become defensive when threatened or grabbed. In fact, certain types of rat snakes are some of the most popular snakes kept as pets.
Enjoy! I hope you learn how to identify the different types of rat snakes that live in New Mexico!
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#1. Great Plains Ratsnake
- Pantherophis emoryi
- Adults range from 36 to 60 inches long.
- Coloration is light gray or tan with dark gray, brown, or green-gray blotching down its back.
- A spear-shaped mark on the head and stripes on the sides of the head that meet to form a point between the eyes.
- Also sometimes called Emory’s Rat Snake, Brown Rat Snake, or Chicken Snake.
Great Plains Ratsnakes can be found in New Mexico in open woodlands, rocky, wooded hillsides, semi-arid regions, and agricultural areas. Being nocturnal, they are hard to find and spend most of their days in old mammal burrows or under rocks, logs, boards, and other cover objects.
This species prefers to prey on rodents but may also consume small birds, lizards, and frogs. They are also known to hunt bats and are sometimes found near caves hunting them! Like other rat snakes, they’re constrictors and use their strong coils to suffocate prey before eating it.
When disturbed, the Great Plains Ratsnake will curl up and vibrate its tail which sounds remarkably like a rattlesnake when done in dry leaf litter. Though they’re considered non-aggressive and docile, they may strike if grabbed.
#2. Trans-Pecos Rat Snake
- Bogertophis subocularis
- Adults are 36 to 54 inches in length.
- Coloration is yellow or tan with black or dark-brown H-shaped markings down the back.
- Large, light-colored round eyes with black pupils and pink tongue.
This highly nocturnal species is rarely spotted during the day in southern New Mexico. They occupy desert flats, brushy slopes, and rocky outcrops and prefer areas with deep rock crevices to shelter and hibernate.
Trans-Pecos Ratsnakes primarily feed on rodents but will also consume birds and lizards. In addition, individuals have been reported to eat bats occasionally.
These snakes are incredibly docile, non-aggressive, and easy to handle. Because of these features, they’re often raised in captivity.
#3. Green Rat Snake
- Senticolis triaspis
- Adults may grow up to 72 inches in length.
- Coloration is green to olive green.
- Slender body, elongated head, and light yellow underside.
Green Ratsnakes are primarily terrestrial even though they are excellent at climbing trees. Look for them in oak woodlands, savannas, mesquite semi-desert grasslands, Sonoran desert scrubs, and rocky canyons in southwestern New Mexico. They prefer areas with rocky, east-facing slopes and spend much of their time under the talus.
These snakes are most active in the morning and late afternoon but are occasionally spotted on roadways in the evening. Their diet includes small mammals, birds, bird eggs, lizards, and bats.
When disturbed, these snakes will typically freeze in an attempt to avoid detection. They’re considered to be non-aggressive.
Do you need additional help identifying snakes?
Try this field guide!
Which of these rat snakes have you seen before in New Mexico?
Leave a comment below!