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Putting the 'Rat' in Rat Snake

Throughout the United States there are several subspecies of rat snake. Rat snakes belong to the Colubridae family and are found in a variety of environments. Rat snakes eat a variety of small animals, primarily rodents, such as rats, but rat snakes didn't earn their namesake because of their diet.

Rat snakes are largely non-threatening to most animals and are often preyed upon by birds and carnivorous mammals. They have the ability to bite, but with a lack of venom, it won't deter a hungry predator.

So, why are they called rat snakes? Actually, it has nothing to do with the things they eat and everything with being a master of disguise. The name 'rat' actually is shortened from 'rattle'. No, rat snakes aren't rattlesnakes, but they are a mimic species. Mimics are animals that have developed to look similar to another, often more dangerous species. Rat snakes even shake their tail against things in their environment in order to mimic the rattlesnake's signature sound to ward off predators.

Other defenses utilized by the rat snake include playing dead, similar to an opossum, and spraying a foul-smelling musk to make themselves unappetizing.

Looking to meet a real-life rat snake? We at Zoology would love to introduce you to our Texas rat snake, Walker Texas Ranger, and many other amazing animals that you'll need to see to believe!1

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