Trans-pecos Rat Snake, Bogertophis subocularis

7 Mind-Blowing Facts About Trans-Pecos Rat Snake

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The Trans Pecos ratsnake is a fascinating yet little-known snake native to the deserts of west Texas and southern New Mexico. Here are 7 mind-blowing facts about this unique reptile:

1. It’s a Subspecies of the Western Ratsnake

The Trans Pecos ratsnake (Pantherophis obsoletus lindheimeri) is a subspecies of the western ratsnake (Pantherophis obsoletus), a nonvenomous colubrid snake found throughout central North America. It’s named “Trans Pecos” because its range lies west of the Pecos River in Texas and New Mexico.

2. They Can Grow Up to 6 Feet Long

Trans Pecos ratsnakes are medium-to-large snakes that can reach up to 72 inches (6 feet) in length as adults. Their slender bodies allow them to climb shrubs and small trees with ease.

3. They Have Distinctive Black and White Markings

These snakes are light gray or yellowish in base color with distinctive black and white blotches running the length of their bodies. The white markings often have black edges. Their bellies are white with black squares along the outer edges.

4. Excellent Climbers and Swimmers

Trans Pecos ratsnakes are expert climbers and will readily ascend vertical surfaces. They are also strong swimmers that have no problem crossing rivers, streams, livestock tanks, and ponds. Their semi-aquatic nature sets them apart from most other ratsnakes.

5. They Feast on Rodents and Birds

These snakes are opportunistic predators that will eat any small animal they can overpower. Their diet consists mainly of rodents like rats, mice, and packrats. They also prey on small rabbits, lizards, frogs, fish, and the eggs and nestlings of ground-nesting birds.

6. Survive Extreme Desert Heat

Trans Pecos ratsnakes thrive in hot, arid habitats like desert scrub, rocky hillsides, and dry riverbeds. They can withstand scorching desert surface temperatures over 120°F by retreating to rodent burrows or other underground refuges.

7. Vulnerable to Habitat Loss and Collection

While not currently considered threatened, Trans Pecos ratsnake populations face pressure from habitat degradation and over-collection for the pet trade. They occupy a diminishing area of intact Chihuahuan Desert habitat. Protecting this ecosystem is key to their long-term survival.

In conclusion, the Trans Pecos ratsnake is a tough, adaptable desert-dweller uniquely equipped to survive in one of North America’s harshest environments. Learning more about this and other underappreciated reptiles can deepen our appreciation for native biodiversity. Simple actions like protecting habitats and avoiding over-collection of rare species can go a long way toward conservation.

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