In My Face Encounter

The landscape bed in our front yard was becoming overgrown and the foundation plants needed trimming.  Working down the row of evergreens, herbaceous plants and woody shrubs, I came to the saucer magnolia.  As I was trimming the crown, I immediately noticed an Eastern Rat Snake (aka Black Rat Snake) Pantherophis alleghaniensis, right at eye level!


The snake was tightly coiled inside of a bird’s nest.  I could only assume that it might be eating eggs or baby birds.  I have been seeing a catbird around lately, and I suspect that this might have been her nest.  It was a two-part nest, the bottom half was finely built and included entwined bits of plastic bag.  Another bird then built a much larger nest with twigs directly on-top of the lower nest.


Now the snake was curious and peaking up and over the nest.  I called in my son Mike, as we both agreed that we did not want the snake so close to our house, and it was time for a relocation.


Mike used an insect net and a pair of tree calipers from the garage to capture the snake.  My wife watched on from a safe distance at the driveway, and our three dogs watched from inside the house looking through the living room picture window with front row seating.  We investigated the nest, no eggs, no birds and no lumps inside the snake.


Eastern Rat Snakes, aka Black Rat Snakes are common, and occur in every County in Maryland.  They can grow up to six-feet in length, but four-feet is more typical.  They are excellent climbers and will feed on mice, birds and bird eggs.  They are powerful constrictors.


Another snake that looks like as Eastern Rat Snake is the Black Racer.  The Racer is usually smaller and thinner, and as the name suggests, fast.  They are black, with a white chin and/or throat.  The Black Rat Snake however, is usually larger, thicker and has a mottled, irregular, whitish checkerboard pattern all along its underside (as shown in the photo).


Mike took the snake for a long walk to the back end of our property and along the stream, well away from the house.  Micky our Beagle, who is an excellent varmint hunter, does not want any competition.  Anything inside of the electric fence is his territory.  In theory, black snakes could swallow chicken eggs, and we don’t want any snakes near our coop.  This is only the second time in over 20-years that we have observed a snake, right up at the house.  On our farmette however, we occasionally see northern water snakes, garter snakes and black snakes along the two streams.  My wife is now happy and thank you Mike.