Mandarin Rat Snake

Elaphe mandarina

Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Other names: none
Close Relatives: closely related to Euprepiophis conspicillatus, the Japanese forest rat snake. Rat snakes are found northern hemisphere, with 50 species of Asian ratsnakes [1]

Brandywine Zoo Rat Snake
Xiao - 1.0 H: 9/3/2004. Acq. 7/20/2009
Xiao was aquired from Colorado Springs/Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, but hatched at Houston Zoo.

Not evaluated; Least Concern [2]

Geographic Region
They come from rocky forests and farmlands within China, Taiwan, Burma, and Vietnam where the climate is fairly cool and humid [3].

Rain forests, farmland, areas with dense vegetation, grasses, shrubs, rocky areas and rice fields [2]. It occurs from sea level to at least 3,000 m (9,800 ft), and therefore are more tolerant of cooler temperatures [4]. Typical temperatures range between 68-77 degrees F [5]

  • Size: 4' or less [4], 39 to 78 inches [2] and about 1 pound [2]
  • Longevity: Wild unknown; Captivity 10-15 years [3]
Physical Description
  • The snake's upper head is yellow and the labials are white, except for three broad, black cross-bands [2].
  • Its upper body and tail are purplish-gray or even reddish, with a series of conspicuous, yellow-margined, yellow-centered, black saddles separated from one another by length of one to two scales [2].
  • They stay slender throughout their lives [3].
There is no obvious secondary sexual characteristic that allow for instant determination of sex, as sizes of individuals can vary greatly and there is no conspicuous color variation.

Diet: Carnivore
Nonvenomous constrictor
  • Diet In the Wild: small rodents [4] and birds [2]
  • Diet In the Zoo: 2-3 small mice, every other week
  • Crepuscular, active at dawn and dusk [4]
  • Shy, secretive snakes.
  • During the day, Mandarin rat snakes like to hide in dark places like rodent burrows [4]. This is also typically where they hunt.
  • When disturbed, they become very aggressive and may spit, musk or bite the attacker.
  • Mandarin rat snakes are comfortable in cooler temperatures than most other colubrids.
  • Oviparous, egg-laying
  • They breed in the spring, 3-12 eggs requiring 48-55 days of incubation [2].
  • Use & Trade: Exports of this species from China historically have been difficult to keep alive. This species has very specific requirements for housing, including low temperatures, high humidity, and substrate for burrowing. Due to this, unfortunately many wild caught exports have perished at the hands of inept caretakers [6].
  • Threats: Their habitat is slowly being reduced due to land development, human encroachment and the cutting of trees. However, at this time, it is assumed they continue to maintain a healthy population (their population has not been thoroughly evaluated).
  • Due to people's lack of knowledge and fear of snakes, rat snakes continue to be the victim of human persecution.
Did You Know?/Fun Facts
  • Their bright colors and diamond pattern may look dangerous, but they're nonvenomous and actually very secretive, active only around dawn or dusk in heavily-covered areas. [3]
  • Mandarin rat snakes are uncommon and not usually kept as pets [3].
  • Rat snakes are very useful around barns and in farming communities because they help control pest populations.
List of definitions of the most important recurrent technical terms used in the text.
  • Colubrids - a family of snakes, composed of 304 genera and 1,938 species. Most are nonvenomous.
  • Labials - The labial scales are the scales of snakes and other scaled reptiles that border the mouth opening. (see picture at right)
  • Oviparous - refers to animals that lay eggs, with little or no other embryonic development within the mother.
[1] Ratsnake Foundation, "Ratsnakes," Ratsnake Foundation, 2014. [Online]. Available: http://www.ratsnakefoundation.org/index.php/ratsnake-species. [Accessed October 2014].
[2] Detroit Zoo, "Mandarin Rat Snake," Detroit Zoo, 2014. [Online]. Available: http://www.detroitzoo.org/animals/mandarin-rat-snake. [Accessed October 2014].
[3] Reptiles Magazine, "Mandarin Rat Snake," Reptiles Magazine, 2014. [Online]. Available: http://www.reptilesmagazine.com/Care-Sheets/Mandarin-Rat-Snake-Care-Sheet/. [Accessed October 2014].
[4] Wikipedia, "Mandarin Rat Snake," Wikipedia, 2014. [Online]. Available: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euprepiophis_mandarinus. [Accessed October 2014].
[5] Ratsnake Foundation, "Euprepiophis Mandarinus," Ratsnake Foundation, 2014. [Online]. Available: http://www.ratsnakefoundation.org/index.php/ratsnake-species/asian-ratsnakes/82-euprepiophis-mandarinus. [Accessed October 2014].
[6] ZooLogic, "Mandarin Rat Snake," Zoo Logic, 2014. [Online]. Available: http://www.zoo-logic.co.uk/mandarinratsnakes.html. [Accessed October 2014].

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