Gray [Black] Ratsnake (Pantherophis spiloides) - Ohio Herp Atlas

Gray [Black] Ratsnake Pantherophis spiloides

When first encountered, most Gray Ratsnakes freeze in position, blending in with their surroundings. They remain motionless until grasped. Although some offer little or no resistance when first captured, many will vibrate their tail rapidly and strike repeatedly. Juvenile When picked up, they usually coil tightly about the arm and discharge a foul-smelling substance from the anal scent glands (musk glands). After being handled for a short time, they usually calm down. Gray Ratsnakes often hibernate in rock crevices in the company of other snakes, such as copperheads and rattlesnakes. This habit gave rise to the fallacy that rat snakes “pilot” these venomous snakes to safety in time of danger; thus they are often called pilot black snakes. Of all the snakes senselessly slaughtered out of ignorance and fear, the Gray Ratsnake is one of the most common victims. The Gray Ratsnakes are one of Ohio’s most beneficial and splendid reptile assets; they play an essential role in controlling destructive rodents. LENGTH: 42”–72”

Text courtesy of the Ohio Division of Wildlife:

Distribution Map
Distribution of the Gray [Black] Ratsnake (Pantherophis spiloides)