play a role in the natural system of checks-and-balances. Their ability to locate and consume nests of destructive rats and mice before the young grow up to damage buildings, crops, stored grain and other foods makes these snakes important controllers of rodents.
If you come across one of Missouri’s constrictors, give it a wide berth and the respect it deserves as a valuable component of Missouri’s wildlife.
Black rat Snake
Great Plains Rat Snake
Western Fox Snake
Red Milk Snake
Black Rat Snake (Elaphe obsoleta)
Missourians often call them “black snakes,” but the name for this species is black rat snake. These are shiny black snakes with white on the upper lip, chin and neck. Some may have faint dark-brown blotches. You can usually see some white and sometimes red between the scales. The belly is mottled with gray or checkered with black markings.
Young black rat snakes (first two years after hatching) are light gray with dark-brown or black markings.
Length may range from 42 to 72 inches, making the black rat snake one of Missouri’s largest snakes. This species is well-known for its ability to climb trees. They are found statewide and live in a variety of habitats, including rocky wooded hillsides, wooded riverbanks, in or near farm buildings and in large brush piles.
Great Plains Rat Snake (Elaphe emoryi)
Great Plains rat snakes have a light gray background color that is covered with black-edged, brown blotches. There is a dark brown stripe between the eyes that extends along the sides of the head onto the neck. The belly is white with bold, squarish, black markings in a checkerboard pattern. This species ranges from 30 to 58 inches in length.
Great Plains rat snakes are found throughout the Missouri Ozarks and into western and northwestern parts of the state. They are commonly found on rocky, sparsely wooded hillsides, in or near abandoned farm buildings and in the vicinity of caves. Rodents are an important food, but this species is also known to eat bats.
Western Fox Snake (Elaphe vulpina)
This close relative of the black rat snake has a tan or greenish-tan background color, and its body is covered with numerous dark-brown blotches. Its head often has an orange cast to it, which has caused