Gray ratsnake

Pantherophis spiloides

The gray ratsnake is a species of nonvenomous snake in the genus ''Pantherophis'' in the subfamily Colubrinae. The gray ratsnake is one of about ten species within the ''Pantherophis'' genus of American ratsnakes.
Gray ratsnake This was the first time that I had witnessed a snake not only climbing a vertical surface, but maintaining its grip whilst releasing part of its body to exhibit defensive behaviour. So impressive! Even though it was high up and a good distance away from me, it was clearly too close for comfort for this character. 

90 cm body length.  Colubridae,Geotagged,Gray ratsnake,Pantherophis spiloides,Squamata,Summer,United States,Vertebrate,fauna,pennsylvania,reptile


A medium to large serpent, the gray ratsnake typically reaches an adult size of 99–183 cm total length; however, the record is 215 cm.

Unlike other ''Pantherophis'', whose conspicuous juvenile pattern fades into adulthood, the gray ratsnake in the southern part of its range does not undergo drastic ontogenetic changes in color or markings. Instead, it retains the juvenile pattern of dark elongate dorsal blotches separated by four, or more, pale gray body scales, a light gray crown with dark striping that forms an anteriorly facing spearpoint, and a solid band which covers the eyes and extends rearward to the posterior upper labial scales.

However, in the northern part of its range it is black in adulthood, like ''P. alleghaniensis'' and ''P. obsoletus''. The venter is usually off-white or pale gray with darker irregular blotches, and a double row of black spots behind the divided anal plate of the vent.

The dorsal scale rows around midbody are usually weakly keeled. Because the gray ratsnake shares its range with other members of its genus, hybrids of midlands x eastern ratsnakes are not uncommon.
Juvenile Ratsnake I believe this little guy is a juvenile Eastern Ratsnake however it could be a Grey Ratsnake or even better an intergrade of the two. Either way it was a very pretty snake that fell out of a tree and plopped right in front of my feet.  Eastern ratsnake,Fall,Geotagged,Gray ratsnake,Pantherophis alleghaniensis,Pantherophis spiloides,United States,macro,reptile,snake


Native to North America, ''Pantherophis spiloides'' is commonly found in the forests of the eastern and central United States. It occurs relatively continuously throughout the major part of the eastern half of the United States, along the western edge of the Appalachian Mountains, from southwestern New England to the Gulf of Mexico, westward to the Mississippi River, and northward from northern Louisiana to southwestern Wisconsin.

In Canada, this species is known to occur in two disjunct regions of southern Ontario: the Carolinian forest region along the north shore of Lake Erie in the southwest, and the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence region in the southeast.
Gray Ratsnake (Pantherophis spiloides) Our resident snake on the hunt near our shed at a disturbed mixed forest edge. Fall,Geotagged,Gray ratsnake,Pantherophis spiloides,United States


The gray ratsnake is considered common across much of its range, but is listed as "of special concern" in Michigan and is also listed as rare in Wisconsin. The gray ratsnake is listed federally in Canada as "endangered" and "threatened". In the state of Georgia, all indigenous, nonvenomous snakes are illegal to kill or capture, and are considered to be in the custody of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
Gray ratsnake profile This individual was around 1.5 m in length.  I like that you can see my lens and friends reflected in the eye, also the beautiful blue tinge to the scales. 

Update...I thought initially this was an eastern rat snake, but after considerable discussion on a herpetology forum (including an extra shot I found that I've added here), it's been agreed that this is a gray ratsnake with variation in postocular scutellation and also due to location of sighting. Who knew?  I am amazed and have so much respect for the knowledge of passionate flora and fauna enthusiasts and professionals.

 Colubridae,Fauna,Geotagged,Gray ratsnake,Pantherophis spiloides,Reptile,Squamata,Summer,United States,Vertebrate,pennsylvania


When startled, the gray ratsnake, like other ratsnakes, stops and remains motionless with its body held in a series of wave-like kinks. The gray ratsnake will defend itself by raising its head and bluffing a strike. If handled, it will musk a victim by releasing the foul-smelling contents of its cloaca, and will bite if necessary.

However, the gray ratsnake is less likely to bite than other members of its genus, and wounds from a bite rarely require more than a small bandage.
Gray Ratsnake (Pantherophis spiloides) Initially found "playing dead" on a dirt road. It didn't particularly like being moved from that location and got into striking position! Etowah County, AL, US. May 9, 2018. Geotagged,Gray ratsnake,Pantherophis spiloides,Reptilia,Spring,United States,rat snake,reptile,snake


An agile climber, the gray ratsnake is at home from the ground to the tree tops in many types of hardwood forest and cypress stands, along tree-lined streams and fields, and even around barns and sheds in close proximity to people.

Within its range, almost any environment rich in rodents, and vertical escape options, proves a suitable habitat for the gray ratsnake.
Gray Ratsnake (Pantherophis spiloides) Snake found at the disturbed edge of a dense mixed forest. This cutie was found very close to our abode, so we were quite happy to make its acquaintance! Geotagged,Gray ratsnake,Pantherophis spiloides,Summer,United States


Breeding in ''P. spiloides'' takes place from April to July. Females deposit 5 to 27 eggs around mid-summer, and the 25–30 cm hatchlings usually emerge in September.
Gray Ratsnake (Pantherophis spiloides) Initially found "playing dead" on a dirt road. It didn't particularly like being moved from that location and got into striking position! Etowah County, AL, US. May 9, 2018. Geotagged,Gray ratsnake,Pantherophis spiloides,Spring,United States


A scent-hunter and a powerful constrictor, ''P. spiloides'' feeds primarily on rodents, birds, and bird eggs as adults, while neonates and juveniles prefer a diet of frogs and lizards.


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SpeciesP. spiloides