Nature in the Backyard: Black Rat Snake

On Sunday I was in our side yard when I heard birds screaming in our back yard. The bluejays were the loudest, but all the birds were shrieking. When about a dozen bluejays were started screaming Blackratsnake1ain unison, I decided to investigate.

When I stepped into the back yard, I expected to see a Coopers hawk. I didn’t see a hawk, but I did see several cardinals diving into the climbing roses on a trellis against the back of our home. As I walked towards the roses, something appeared out of place.

I saw what appeared to be a black tail hanging down at the bottom of the trellis. (Look at the red outline in the first photo – double-click for a closer view.) As I got closer, I saw a large black snake curled around a bird’s nest in the roses.

Blackratsnake2a_1 I called Ann and we looked closer. A black rat snake, about five feet long, had climbed up the trellis and feasted on the baby cardinals in the nest. Not only was it long, but it was thick – about 3 – 4 inches in diameter. A big snake! (You can see it’s head in the red circle in the second photo – double-click for a closer view.)

I wanted to get more photos when it came down, so I checked on it often. I expected it to move away from our house, across the yard, and into the woods. Wrong!

I spotted the big snake coming around the corner of the garage, towards the the front of the house. I walked over to get a closer look and a photo. It paused for a moment, and then started coming right towards me! Instead of moving onto the driveway where we were standing, however, it went into a hole under the driveway.

I was so caught up in the excitement I had forgotten to turn my digital camera on! When it was finally ready, I got a photo of it’s tail as it disappeared in the hole (highlighted in red in the third photo).

The next morning I went out and looked at the hole. The snake was about a foot out of the hole. It immediately withdrew into it’s sanctuary.

This large snake shows up four days after Scooter is gone. Can predators detect an opening in the ecosystem, an opportunity for upward mobility?