What kind of snake are you mister?
June 19, 2009 11:11 AM   Subscribe

Help me identify this snake we found on our deck in Bloomington, Indiana?

We found the snake's skin this morning wrapped around the deck railing. The skin wasn't there yesterday. It measures just shy of 52 inches long. We didn't see the snake until midday, but now it's basking on our elevated deck. We just moved to Indiana, so we're don't know the local snakes. Close ups here and here.

Extra credit for tips on how to co-exist with this snake, but keep it out of our house.
posted by joe vrrr to Home & Garden (18 answers total)
Best answer: Looks like a black rat snake.
posted by emilyd22222 at 11:14 AM on June 19, 2009

Best answer: Looks like a black rat snake.
posted by rtha at 11:14 AM on June 19, 2009

posted by rtha at 11:14 AM on June 19, 2009

posted by emilyd22222 at 11:15 AM on June 19, 2009

posted by emilyd22222 at 11:15 AM on June 19, 2009

Now cut that out you two.
posted by onhazier at 11:18 AM on June 19, 2009

Looks like they are excellent to have around, unless you prefer squeaking mammals raiding your cheese.
posted by Pants! at 11:19 AM on June 19, 2009

They're shy, so I doubt it will try to get in your house. It's just relaxing after shedding its skin, it'll probably move along shortly. They're harmless.
posted by HopperFan at 11:21 AM on June 19, 2009

I've been meaning to post this same question about this same snake, we have a *disturbingly* large community in the field in back of our house.

My next AskMe is instead probably going to be how to get rid of the cumulative case of the willies I've got from them slithering away from my dog, my baby, and me when we go out for walks in the morning. It's tall grass and you can see the grass shaking and moving as they slide away aiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

I don't know how you feel about snakes -- I didn't have a phobia until I was confronted with this Indiana Jones-level pile of them in the back -- but I'm creeped out just from looking at the pictures, and I love animals and nature and think of myself as fairly reasonable i.e., those snakes are indeed quite shy and harmless. But oh my goodness they freak me out.

Anyway, Mr. Llama has told me how he handles his fear of spiders: he doesn't allow himself to think. When he feels himself kind of basking in the fear he shuts his brain down and doesn't let the thoughts continue. That's how despite a fairly significant phobia he can gently pick spiders up and put move them outside.

So yeah -- they're shy and retiring and harmless but they ARE NOT SMALL.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 11:35 AM on June 19, 2009

Oh no, they're not small, certainly. Average of 42-72 inches, can get up to nine feet. Some people, like me (and Jeff Corwin!) think this is awesome. Others, er, not so much.
posted by HopperFan at 11:37 AM on June 19, 2009

can get up to nine feet.

I'm going to leave work early so I can go home, pack our things, and move.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 11:38 AM on June 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

Black snakes are fantastic to have around, actually, because as noted, they keep your general rodentia problems in check. With the number of cheekyass squirrels in our yard, I'd take a snake, Llama.
posted by Medieval Maven at 11:48 AM on June 19, 2009

Oh! (S)he's gorgeous!

Rat snakes are indeed good neighbors to have.
posted by elfgirl at 11:53 AM on June 19, 2009

I agree with everyone else here, looks like a rat snake, don't worry about it, etc.

Having said that, a word of caution-- growing up in Indiana, we were always told to watch out for water mocassins/cottonmouths (wikipedia, smithsonian), which are also black snakes about that size, except they're venomous. They're distinguished by having a diamond-shaped head, since they're pit vipers. As the name implies, they pretty much stay close to or in water, and they're supposedly not very aggressive. So it's probably best not to just assume "hey, that must be another black rat snake like the last one" unless it really looks like the last one. Don't panic or anything, they aren't that common but it's good to be aware of it. See here for a guide to common snakes of Indiana.
posted by leapfrog at 12:29 PM on June 19, 2009

Lucky you! That's one nice looking rat snake! How to co-exist? Just leave it alone so it can live its life and do its job which, as others have pointed out, involves killing and eating small rodents. This snake won't hurt you. It's probably already off your deck by the time you're reading this and chances are you'll never see it again. Too bad. A snake is a good friend to have.
posted by rhartong at 2:30 PM on June 19, 2009

I've spent better portions of my life with 5-7 ft black snakes living in or near the foundations of my home. They are *excellent* neighbors and, really, hard to mistake for their much less common venomous brethren. They don't hunt as voraciously as a barn cat, but they command a great deal of respect and space from common vermin. They are not aggressive unless cornered and very seriously harassed.
posted by mrmojoflying at 6:24 PM on June 19, 2009

Oh, and as far as climbing, I once found one hanging out in the rafters of a barn.
posted by mrmojoflying at 6:29 PM on June 19, 2009

Gorgeous black rat snake! It's distinguished from a black racer by the slight pattern on the back in adults. They do get quite large and are great climbers, often found in trees. They're not usually aggressive unless cornered or startled (i.e. stepped on).

I saw an 8-footer one time on a walking path at a camp in Ohio. I was with a group of teens and a useless counselor who panicked. The snake had a chipmunk in its mouth and was blocking the path. I instructed the teens to quietly detour around the snake and continue on while I stayed to watch the rest of the meal. After about 10 minutes the deed was done and he slithered away and up a nearby tree. Although I felt badly for the chipmunk, it was an amazing site to see such a large snake in the wild.
posted by caroljean63 at 10:17 PM on June 19, 2009

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