Nature Mikey

Nature Mikey

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Species of the Day: Baird's Rat Snake

Scientific Name: Pantherophis (Elaphe) bairdi
Family: Colubridae
Adult Size: 2 to over 4 feet long
Range: Western region of Texas, south into Mexico
Habitat: Rocky, wooded areas and upland deserts

    The Baird's Rat snake is a colubrid species found in the United States in the Big Bend region of western Texas as well as in northern in Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas. The species is named for American zoologist Spencer Fullerton Baird. There are no subspecies currently recognized. Adults can reach lengths of 25 to 55 inches, with some individuals reaching up to 6 feet in length. The color pattern consists of an orange-yellow, or a darker salmon ground color overlaid with four darker stripes that run from the back of the head to the tail. The belly is generally gray to yellow, darkening near the tail. They are typically the more pleasant tempered of the rat snakes, rarely biting unless improperly handled. Housing for any rat snake is very simple. Cages should be escape-proof, well ventilated and roomy, with a hide box and a large, heavy water crock for drinking and soaking. A 20 to 40 gallon tank is perfect for an adult snakes, with aspen shavings, newspaper or paper towels as a substrate. These snakes do best with ventral heating options, such as under-tank heating pads, placed on one end of the enclosure. Their primary diet in the wild consists of rodents and sometimes birds, with younger individuals feeding on lizards. Captive individuals can be maintained solely on appropriately sized rodents or even feeder chicks.

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