Black rat snakes are focus of MDC Aug. 11 online program

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – No matter how much is written about how beneficial black rat snakes are, these rodent-eating reptiles will always be at the top of many people’s fear lists. That’s too bad because black rat snakes are major predators of some animals that can pose problems for people.

People can learn more about these beneficial and misunderstood snakes in the Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) free virtual program “Black Rat Snakes” which will be 10-10:30 a.m. on Aug. 11. At this online program, MDC Naturalist Jordi Raos will explain why these frequently feared snakes deserve some appreciation, too. This program is designed for all ages. People can register for this program at:

For some people, their fear of black rat snakes (also called western ratsnakes) probably has to do with the creature’s length – they commonly grow to lengths of around five to six feet, but on occasion, can reach lengths of more than seven feet. Their relentless pursuit of prey commonly leads them to garages, back porches, basements and many other locations that are far inside the comfort zones of most people.

While it’s true a black rat snake’s diet isn’t entirely rodent-specific (they also eat bird eggs, poultry eggs, etc.); people should remember they are called “rat snakes” for a good reason. Much of their diet consists of mice and rats. Studies have shown that most of a black rat snake’s diet is beneficial to humans. In truth, people who see a black rat snake around their home or in their garage are usually alarmed for the wrong reason. They shouldn’t be as upset about finding a large snake in a building as they should be about the bigger problem this signifies – that there may be mice and/or rats at this location.

Though this program is free, registration is required to participate using the link above. Registrants must provide an e-mail, so a program link can be sent to them. This program will include a chat-based question-and-answer period where participants can interact with the presenters.

Staff at MDC facilities across the state are holding virtual programs. A listing of these programs can be found at