This is the first article in a series of three and will cover North American Rat Snakes. Part II will cover European Rat Snakes.
Below is a list of North American Rat snakes species/subspecies that are most commonly available and easiest to keep in captivity.
Yellow Rat Snake
Like all American rat snakes this snake starts off life as a 30cm long grey snake with darker blotches on the back. The adults go through a colour change at around 1 year of age and transforms into a yellow snake with two dark brown lines on its sides, dark brown saddles on the back may be visible . These snakes can reach nearly 2m in length and need larger cages than smaller species such as corn snakes. Yellow Rat snakes feed on rodents their whole lives, hatchlings will take pinkie mice and adults can consume a medium size rat with no problems. These snakes breed well in captivity and finding a captive bred hatchling is not a difficult task. These snakes vary in temperament but are one of the friendlier Rat Snake species as long as they are handled on a regular basis.
Grey Rat Snake
This Rat Snake retains its juvenile colouration and is not as popular as other North American Rat snakes due to their bland grey colour. This is a shame as these snakes are easy to keep and it is a perfect snake for novice keepers. The care and breeding of this snake is exactly the same as for the Yellow Rat Snake. These snakes can reach 2m in length but are usually smaller. This snake has a good temperament as long as it is handled often.
Black Rat Snake
The adult colour of this snake is black with a white chin, juveniles are grey with dark saddles on the back. This is an easy snake to take care of and the captive conditions are the same as other American Rat Snakes. It can reach a length of around 2m. This snake has a good temperament and is easy to handle. This snake is captive bred in large numbers and an albino morph is available.
Texas Rat snakes
This snake has a dark grey, yellowish or pinkish background colouration obscured by black blotches and dark speckles. A leucistic morph where all pigment is missing producing a pure a pure white snake with grayish blue eyes exists. This snake can grow to 2m in length. Care and breeding is the same as the above mentioned species. This snake has a reputation of being very aggressive and difficult to tame.
Everglades Rat Snake
This snake is very similar to the Yellow Rat Snake in most respects with the exception of having a orange background colour. Care and breeding is the same as other Rat Snake species and it can be tamed with regular handling. Hatchlings of this subspecies can be reluctant to feed on pinkies due to their small size.
Different American Rat snake subspecies can interbreed creating what is called an intergrade e.g Texas Rat Snake X Black Rat Snake. This happens in the wild and in captivity. Different Rat Snake species can interbreed creating hybrids e.g Great Plains Rat Snake X Yellow Rat Snake. This usually occurs under captive conditions where the snakes are bred with the specific intention to create hybrids.
Great Plains Rat Snake
This snake is a subspecies of Corn Snake and the only difference is that this snake lacks the vibrant colouration of the Corn Snake. The pattern is similar to the Corn Snake with the red colours being replaced with various shades of brown. This snake can grow to 1.5 m in length but usually less. It requires identical captive conditions as the Corn Snake and American Rat Snakes. This snake is not bred in the huge number that Corn Snakes are, due to its rather dull colouration. Captive bred specimens are available for those who are willing to shop around.