King ratsnake

Elaphe carinata

Irish Name: Nathracha rí-fhrancacha
IUCN Status: Not yet evaluated

King ratsnakes are black snakes with yellow colouration on their scales. Young individuals are mainly grey brown with a fine dark pattern. The young go through colour and pattern changes which take two years to complete. They have keeled scales meaning their scales are not smooth but have a ridge down the centre of the scales making them rough to handle. A distinctive feature of the king ratsnake is their teardrop shaped pupil.

King ratsnake

Elaphe carinata

Irish Name: Nathracha rí-fhrancacha
IUCN Status: Not yet evaluated

King ratsnakes are black snakes with yellow colouration on their scales. Young individuals are mainly grey brown with a fine dark pattern. The young go through colour and pattern changes which take two years to complete. They have keeled scales meaning their scales are not smooth but have a ridge down the centre of the scales making them rough to handle. A distinctive feature of the king ratsnake is their teardrop shaped pupil.

General Information

Where do they live? (Natural habitat)

The three subspecies of king ratsnake are found in Asia. They are usually found in open forests, bamboo thickets, meadows and fields, often near human populations.

How long do they live?

In the wild, the king ratsnake lives for 15+ years - males living longer than females. In zoos they can live for 20-25 years.

What do they eat?

They are active hunters with a diet consisting of rodents, birds, birds eggs, lizards and other snakes. They suffocate their prey by constriction.

Group name

King ratsnakes are solitary animals with no group name.

Zoo location

The king ratsnake can be seen in Zoorassic World in Dublin Zoo.

Closest related species / sister species

The elaphe carinata or king ratsnake is most closely related to Elaphe anomala (Korean rat snake).

Animal class

Reptilia

Animal order

Squamata

Fun facts

Stinky snake!

The king ratsnake is sometimes known as "stink snake" or "stinking goddess". This is because they secrete a very strong, foul-smelling musk when they are threatened.

Put the heating on

Like other snakes, the king ratsnake cannot regulate its own body temperature. Therefore, its needs an external heat source to regulate its temperature.

Bon appetit

King ratsnakes will eat anything, including other snakes and have been known to sometimes eat their own kind.

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Family Life

They are oviparous which means they lay eggs. Mating usually takes place in the spring with 8-14 eggs laid between early-mid summer. The eggs are incubated for 40-60 days. They are active during dusk and nighttime, going into hiding during the day between leaves, branches or in caves.

Baby name

Hatchling

Number of young at birth

8-14 eggs.

Age at maturity

King rat snakes reach maturity at around 2 years.

Size adult

They measure between 150-200cm with some individual known to have grown to 240cm long.

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Conservation

Still to be evaluated

The king ratsnake is still to be evaluated by the International Union for Conservation in Nature.

Current population estimate

Unknown, but is a common species.

Threats

One of the biggest threats facing the king ratsnake in the wild is being captured for the pet trade and the skin trade. They are also used in traditional medicine and a popular source of food in restaurants in China.

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FAQs

  • Are rat snakes poisonous?

    Ratsnakes are non-venomous, they are constrictors and kill their prey by suffocating it.

  • What do ratsnakes eat?

    Their diet consists of rodents, birds, birds eggs, lizards and other snakes including other ratsnakes!

  • Do ratsnakes bite?

    Yes! They are known to be defensive and will bite their attacker if they are disturbed or threatened.

  • How big do ratsnakes get?

    They measure between 150-200 cm but some individuals have been known to grow to a length of 240cm.

  • Are ratsnakes dangerous?

    Ratsnakes are not dangerous but can behave aggressively and bite when threatened. The bites can be painful and may become infected.

  • Do rat snakes hibernate?

    Yes! Ratsnakes do hibernate because they cannot regulate their body temperature and will hibernate during cold periods. The length of the hibernation period will vary with the species.

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