Common Snakes of India

The Rat Snake

The Rat Snake

-Jitender  Dhir

Snakes, as we mostly imagine are a matter of “fear” to most of us. But they are actually   beautiful creatures if we care to understand them.  One only needs an eye to see this beauty of nature. 

In India  many  types of  snakes are  found in a variety  of  forests/vegetations;  most  of them are non venomous with only  around  four  species being  venomous.  One commonly found   non venomous species is Rat Snake.  As is clear from the name, it mainly feeds on rats, frogs and such small preys.   So it is commonly found in all such places where these preys are abundant like fields (mainly rice) and other human habitats.  Their length can vary and can be even more than 2 meters.  Their color also varies and can be yellowish, grayish or black.  It  has  beautiful  black markings  all over the   body and  the  markings  on the  jaws and  head   just  nearly  co inside.  The markings on the body differ from that on the tail.  Rat snakes are light weight snakes.  Also note that their look has some look- a likes which they resemble. One of them is the Cobra. 
When I  encountered the  snake  ( in the experience I  have  narrated ) I  wrongly identified  it  as  a  female Cobra. 

This snake is widely distributed throughout India and also in other parts of Asia. It is a day hunter and remains completely hidden in the night at various places like under the rocks, holes, dark places like pipes etc.  Its  habitat varies  from   sea side  to  densely  forested areas.  The  main habitat  types  where it  is  found  include agricultural lands, forests, human habitats like  near  food storage, under  the rocks and  bricks or  such  other  debris dumps.  It  is  also  one of the  fastest  snakes  of  India and this  characteristic  makes  it  fit  to successfully  hunt and  survive in even the toughest  conditions.   It also has good climbing and dropping capability. It  can stand  tall  at  about  half  meters  from ground and  show  its  anger by  making a  sound  when the  need  arises.  Like Cobra  it can stretch is  upper  body  to  look big and  defend itself  from the dangers.

I shall not make this somewhat boring by discussing only the biological features of Rat snake.  Now, about my experience in this encounter with Rat snake! 

One rainy   morning of  this  August,  weather  was  pleasant  after the  rainy showers  at  night,  I  was on my  way  to  photograph  birds. I stopped at the point near fields to photograph the Indian roller bird for its instincts. I was busy capturing this colorful bird’s beauty.  I was on the  pathway  photographing  the  bird in the  fields which were at somewhat lower level than path way.  I suddenly noticed a stick sort of thing just beside the pathway.  As this  was my  first encounter with rat snake , my  mind  just gave  a passing thought  of it  being a sort of  shrub standing, but  I  decided to  look more  closely  through my  lens and that was it !  My senses   became more tense with  less of  caution but more  of  excitement.   There was no end to excitement of that moment.  I was only 2 meters away from the Rat snake beauty.  I  made  no  delay  in capturing it through my  lens  to  get  it recorded forever. 

Thrilling moment it was for me.  It seemed  as if  it  has come  only  to  give  me  his/her glimpse and  to  get photographed. You  know, such  moments are rare and  lucky  when you  get  such  rewards  from nature,  mostly  you  have  to  hunt at  large for taking them into  your  cams. 

All in all,  with this writing, I want  to convey  the message  that  Nature in every  form is  beautiful and  should be explored.  Be it the  beauty of a Rat Snake or  a  beautiful woman, you  only  need to  give time and effort  to find  and  explore  them  and  you  get  your  rewards.  Just take time to explore that beautiful world around you. You will realize that the human is not the only beauty God has made. 

Jitender  Dhir

Wildlife Enthusiast and Birdwatcher


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