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View from the Zoo: Edmund is on move to new surroundings

Edmund, the western black rat snake.
Edmund, the western black rat snake.

One of our snakes previously housed in the education centre has moved over to the reptile river to be put on display.

Edmund is a 16-year-old western black rat snake, the move means that he has lots more space to explore around the reptile river area. He is now housed next the Burmese python and shares his vivarium with our blood python called Fluffy. They are both getting on very well and often sleep next to one or another.

The western black rat snake is also known as the Texas rat snake, pilot black snake or simply black snake, it is a non-venomous species of snake which is found in central North America. They are a fairly common species and live for around 30 years, though they do not tend to reach that age in the wild due mostly to predation.

This species has a very wide geographical range around North America and likes to live on a variety of terrains, however the black rat snake has been found in farm lands and rocky areas, as most rat snakes prefer places where they can climb.

When startled, rat snakes can freeze themselves and wrinkle into a series of kinks, they also face predators by rattling their tail as if to imitate a rattlesnake and will try to do this in a pile of leaves to make the sound louder and more intimidating, they may however attempt to flee as well.

Another defence mechanism is to produce a foul smelling musk to deter the threat of predators.

The rat snake is a constrictor so they will squeeze their prey before swallowing it whole. They often eat mice, voles and rats (hence the name) though they are not specialist hunters and will eat pretty much any other vertebrate they can catch, including frogs, lizards, squirrels, birds, eggs and other snakes.

In captivity western rat snakes make popular pets, they are a large sized snake, on average they are around four to six feet in length though the longest rat snake recorded was eight foot five inches, making them the longest snake found in Canada.

They also have a calm temperament and are easy to handle, are relatively easy to care for and enjoy hiding, burrowing and climbing.