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The Natural History and Captive Care of the Trans-Pecos Ratsnake – Part 2

Yellow Rat SnakeThe Trans-Pecos Ratsnake, Bogertophis subocularis, stands apart form it’s many relatives in both appearance and habits.  Please see Part 1 of this article to learn more about the natural history of this most interesting desert-dweller.

General Care

Although less closely related to the “typical” ratsnakes (i.e. the Yellow Ratsnake, please see photo) than originally believed, the basic care of the Trans-Pecos closely follows that of other commonly kept species.  Please see the article below for general care; today I’ll focus on points specific to the Trans-Pecos Ratsnake.

Humidity and Ventilation

The Trans-Pecos Ratsnake hails from deserts and other arid habitats.  While hardy in general, it is very prone to fungal skin diseases if kept in damp conditions.  Although less well studied, respiratory problems are also likely if the cage is poorly ventilated.

Be sure to keep your snake in a terrarium equipped with a screen cover.  If you are using plastic containers to raise hatchlings, a few air-holes, as might suffice for other snakes, will not do.  Ample cross-ventilating holes must be drilled, or your snakes will not thrive.

Water bowls should only be filled to a point where they will not overflow if the snake coils up within; spills and feces must be cleaned quickly.  A cave or plastic box filled with damp sphagnum moss is useful at shedding time.


Trans-Pecos Ratsnakes hail from warm habitats, but spend most of their time below-ground and thus are not exposed to temperature extremes.  Provide a thermal gradient ranging from 74-85 F, with a basking site of 90 F.

As these snakes are largely nocturnal, night-viewing bulbs can be used to both observe and warm them after dark; ceramic heaters and heat cables are also useful at night.


Although lizards likely form a significant part of the natural diet, especially for small individuals, Trans-Pecos Ratsnakes usually take mice (unlike Vine Snakes and other lizard specialists).  Hatchlings can be started on pink mice.


Trans Pecos Rat SnakeBreeding Trans-Pecos Ratsnakes is very interesting and enjoyable – at least 18 beautiful color variations have been developed to date (please see article below); with a bit of experimentation you could likely add to that number!

A cooling-off period of 4-8 weeks at 60-68 F should be used to bring adults into breeding condition.  Mating generally occurs from May-July, with eggs being produced after a gestation period of 35-50 days.  Clutches may contain 2-10 eggs, with 5 being typical.  Eggs hatch after an incubation period of 75 days at 82 F, with a range of 65-105 days, depending upon temperature.  Hatchlings average 12-15 inches in length.



Further Reading

Excellent photos of the many beautiful color variations of the Trans-Pecos Ratsnake can be viewed here

Black Ratsnake Care

Video: wild Trans-Pecos ratsnake foraging

Yellow Rat Snake image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by leppyone

Trans Pecos Rat Snake image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Dawson

About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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