Jeb’s Critter Spotlight
The Texas Rat Snake “Bob”
By Jeb Lapeyrolerie - Camp Kubena Executive Director
Happy New Year everyone! I’m back with another critter we love to hate – the Texas Rat Snake. The rat snake is found all over our state and into Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. Their color varies widely and seems to depend on the area in which they are found. They are also excellent climbers.
If you have been to camp you have probably seen a rat snake. We affectionately call them all “Bob.” Who can be scared of a snake named Bob, right? Rat snakes are very important at camp because they eat a lot of pests like rats and mice. Because of them, we don’t have to use as much pesticide to control the rodent population. This is good because the poisons we use can harm other good critters. You could say Bob is a staff member and that killing mice and other rodents is his job.
Besides rats and mice, rat snakes pick their meals from a large menu of other small animals. They like frogs, lizards, toads, birds, insects, and eggs. You may have heard people refer to them as chicken snakes because they do like to get into chicken coops and eat chicken eggs and sometimes chicks. In this case, they are not a friend to the farmer, but they don’t know they are doing something wrong; they just see an easy meal.
Like with other wildlife, we have a “leave it alone” policy with the rat snakes. Sometimes when we run across them, they will shake their tail back and forth to make a rattling sound. They are hoping to fool us into thinking they are a rattlesnake. What they are really saying is, “Hey I’m here – leave me alone!” If you do corner a rat snake, they will defend themselves. This is where they get their aggressive reputation from. They do not chase people. All they want is to get away from the big, scary human.
I know we have all heard stories about rat snakes making their way into people’s homes. Believe me, they much prefer to be outside. If they are inside, there is something there that is attracting them. It could be water when it is super dry outside. To help with this, you could create a drip fountain. To create these, all you need is a bit of hose and a flat rock. Attach the hose to a faucet and run it to a shady area and let it drip just a tiny bit. You don’t want it to create a pool or puddle. This little drip will provide moisture for many different critters. Another thing that attracts them indoors is food. If you see one inside, it may mean that you have other critters running around your home.
When you see Bob around camp, just say “hi” and leave him alone so he can do his job. If Bob happens to be near one of the cabins, all you have to do is let a staff member know and we’ll help him get to where he is supposed to be.