, 2022-10-06 11:01:34,
Q: This small snake with a mottled pattern appeared near the house recently. Who do we have here? Nothing venomous, I hope? Snakes make me nervous, but I try to tolerate them.
A: No worries, this is a juvenile eastern ratsnake (black ratsnake), a very common species often seen in suburbia. Like several other local species, juveniles have a different body pattern than adults, and different juveniles might be confused with each other at this age at first glance due to similar patterns. Several animals will prey on baby snakes, and they need help blending in to stay hidden.
In comparison, copperheads, the only Maryland venomous snake likely to be accidentally encountered during gardening (as timber rattlesnakes have a much more restricted range here), have a yellow-tipped tail when young and a distinctive pattern of blotches. They create Hershey’s-kiss shapes when viewed from their sides, where the tops of those darker blotches are narrower along the snake’s back and the bases of the blotches (near its belly) are widest.
Do not rely on the vertical-slit pupil vs. round pupil trait for snake ID, as pupil shape can change in response to light levels. Although these two native pit viper species do have that namesake second pair of pits (one pair being their nostrils)…
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