Pine Snake: What You Need to Know Before You Get One

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The pine snake is a species of nonvenomous, colubrid snake native to the eastern United States. They are one of the most common snakes found in North America. The adult pine snake is typically dark brown or black with a white or yellowish underbelly and patches on the neck and belly.

It is known by many names, including striped rat snake, red rat snake, black-necked garter snake, New England garter snake, bastard garter snake, and common garter snake.

As you can see, there are plenty of reasons why this beautiful creature deserves your attention. Pine snakes live in forests and woodlands near water sources like streams and ponds.

Section 1: What are Pine Snakes?

Pine Snakes have a wide variety of traits, ranging from medium-sized to very large. Some common traits among the species are:

Head with a round bulging forehead.

Feet without toes or projections on the pads.

Ventrals, the tail portion of the snake, have 11-12 scale rows.

Subcaudals, the tail portion of the snake, have 13-16 scale rows.

Section 2: Pine Snakes in the Wild

Pine Snakes are best known for their yellowish-grey or reddish coloration, and heavy triangular scales on the back and underside of their bodies.

Pine Snakes are ambush predators, often sitting motionless in the leaves of a low-lying forest for long periods of time.

Although the pine snakes are primarily active during the day, they may enter a sleeping state.

Florida Pine Snake

What Kind of Housing is Best for a Pine Snake?

A wide range of housing types and terrains can provide excellent housing for pinesnakes. Some of the best places for pinesnakes to live are in:


Cooper’s hawk boxes

Cooper’s hawks and houses

Box traps


Birds’ cages

Dog houses

Isolate species within an area

Pinesnakes are highly secretive, especially during the early stages of their life. They are also often shy and nervous about their surroundings.

They do not like to be around other species, so it is important to isolate them to keep them away from other snakes and birds.

How Can I Find a Pine Snake?

When it comes to finding pinesnakes, the most common method is to go searching for them in your garden. Finding them this way is very easy.

Feeding Your Snake

Pine snakes feed primarily on rodents and snakes. They are excellent climbers that occasionally venture into buildings to eat rodents hiding in crevices.

In Florida, when rodents are scarce, they will eat small birds and bats. Because they are carnivores, they will prey on mammals such as rabbits and deer.

Young pine snakes are vulnerable to predation from other snakes, which includes the coral snake and copperhead. The pine snake does not have defensive adaptations against these snakes.

However, they have evolved a kink in the middle of their tail, which makes them hard to strike. The leaves on their tail are actually modified scales.

Conservation Concerns

A few populations of the pine snake are endangered.

Feeding Your Snake’s Prey

The pine snake spends much of its time coiled around its prey. This snake spends 90 percent of its life coiled, at the mercy of its prey, never seeing its prey. When it is ready to strike, it contracts muscles in its head, neck, and tail.

This is the part of the snake that causes a dull croak. The snake then lunges out and bites into its prey. Once the prey is in the snake’s mouth, the snake coils up around the prey.

This can be very quick since the snake can’t really wrap itself around its prey before striking. When the snake is ready to let go, it usually bites again, doing so with a high-pitched, squeaking noise.

Choosing live prey

The common name “pine snake” originates from the fact that these snakes often kill and eat rodents such as mice, voles, rats, and rabbits. Some prefer small birds, such as mockingbirds, while others can occasionally eat small mammals and other reptiles. The most common prey choice is mice.

But a live snake is not necessarily easy to come by. You’ll want to look for a live juvenile or baby specimen. It’s easier to kill a live animal when the snake is young than an adult specimen.

Teaching your child to identify a live pine snake can help them understand the function of venom, safety precautions when handling a live specimen, and the natural history of the snake.

The Pine Snake

The pine snake grows to be anywhere between 6.8 and 11.2 feet in total length (including tail).

Dealing with live prey that won’t come out of the cage

If you live with a pet python, know that it’s best to just keep the reptile in a live animal shelter (a small kennel with a door). Do not let your snake go outside of the cage or your home unless you are able to supervise the snake and other animals all the time.

Although one subspecies, P. m. melanoleucus, can climb trees, these snakes do not usually climb, so, if you think your snake is getting out of the cage, check on it regularly, and don’t try to catch it. It’s likely that it will be asleep, having gone to sleep while you weren’t looking.

Pet pythons will go into a catatonic state when there are humans in the room. You should never try to pick up a snake unless it’s awake. One of the reasons they remain docile when in this state is that they get too big to walk.

When Should I Clean My Cage?

Yes, it is critical that the majority of your pine snakes’ behaviors are suitable for pet ownership. Cleaning your pine snake’s cage and body separately is important. Excessive grooming can result in skin infections.

If you decide to move your pet into a larger home, you should also use a separate room for your snakes. They will not be able to completely integrate into the household if there is any mixing of families.

What Are the Common Causes of Paralysis and Death for Pine Snakes?

Paralysis and death can occur as a result of excessive stimulation (also known as stereotypy), overheating, dehydration, infections, and the death of the snakes’ natural predators.

Paralysis and death can occur when the weather is hot or dry.

Handling your snake

Pine snakes shed their skin only twice a year, during the spring and fall. These snake sheddings occur in late summer and early fall, and snakes emerge in the spring and hide in the leaf litter until the following fall.

Pine snakes shed their skin during sunny, warm conditions. They will shed their skin by standing on a branch or twig, or by chewing a strip of skin away from a portion of their body.

A pine snake may shed the skin of its back, as well as the sides and front, leaving them vulnerable to being attacked by predators such as hawks and other snakes.

Once the skin is removed, the snake will often fold the skin over itself, similar to how an alligator hangs its skin after coming out of the water.

When you see a pine snake in the wild, do not touch it.


Although they are native to the southeastern U.S., the pine snake is most often found in association with forests, mainly in the southeastern states. They prefer moist pine forests with lots of deadwood where they can curl up in a ball in the midst of the dead sticks and webs.

Pine snakes are very thin, weighing between 8 and 14 ounces, with a length up to 8 inches. The snake’s color can range from olive green, gray, or brown to reddish-brown, and it may have either a cream or black patch on the back.

Pine snakes are secretive, but their skin pattern helps them stand out against the background of their surroundings. They may have white or yellow markings on the underside of the belly and along the sides of the neck and across the tail.

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