How to Identify a Gulf Hammock Rat Snake

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The gulf hammock rat snake lives mostly in central Florida, but its relative ease of care and manageable size make it ideal as a pet across the country. This snake is typically considered an interbreed between a yellow rat snake and a gray rat snake. It carries characteristics of both, including coloring and markings. Like most rat snakes, it prefers to hunt small mammals, such as rats, and birds.

Size

A gulf hammock rat snake hatches at a size of 11 to 17 inches, and he's ready to begin hunting immediately. Never becoming a huge snake, these rat snakes tend to top out at about 6 feet long, while most stay between 3 and 4 feet. This size makes a gulf hammock rat snake a good choice for a pet; you don't have to buy an abnormally large aquarium or habitat for the snake, and you won't go broke trying to keep him fed.

Saddles

Many rat snake species have saddles, or dark splotches, spaced out along their backs. Some, however, only carry the splotches as juveniles; the saddles fade in adulthood. A gulf hammock rat snake typically has 28 to 33 splotches along his back that he keeps for life. They don't disappear as the snake matures.

Stripes

As an interbreed, the gulf hammock rat snake has some interesting markings. In addition to the saddles, the snake carries four stripes that are most clearly defined on the upper half of his body. The splotches are passed down from the gray rat snake, and the stripes come from the yellow rat snake. Not all gulf hammock rat snakes have the stripes when they hatch; if not, the stripes develop by the time the snakes are subadults.

Color

The gulf hammock rat snake has a small variety of color options. It's typically grayish brown or light brown along its body with brown saddles and stripes. These markings can be a medium brown to nearly black in color. This rat snake typically has gray or grayish-brown eyes, unlike the bright orange eyes found in some other rat snake species. Like most rat snakes, however, the gulf hammock variety has a black tongue.

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