South Florida Yellow Rat Snake Elaphe obsoleta quadrivittata


Below: A young adult with stunning coloration


Some of the most attractive rat snakes occur on the south side of Lake Okeechobee in the Everglades region. Our South Florida yellow rat snakes descend from the sugar cane fields in the neighboring counties of Glades, Hendry, and Palm Beach. This area is sometimes considered part of the range of E. o. rossalleni, the Everglades rat snake.

Below: A yellow adult with light striping

South Florida Yellow Rat Snake Elaphe obsoleta quadrivittata 

Some consider the Everglades rat snake merely a color variation of the yellow snake. See our Everglades rat page for notes on that variation. Even the snakes of this locality that do not display the bright orange coloration that many associate with the Everglades form are often very beautiful snakes. Our examples display faint stripes on a beautiful yellow to orange/yellow background.

Below: An adult with orange-yellow coloration and a partially red tongue


Like other yellow rat snakes, the newborn babies have dark blotches on a gray background. However, the ontogenetic color change happens much more quickly in South Florida yellow rat snakes than those from further north. The yellow coloration is apparent in many juveniles only a few months old. We have seen literally hundreds of these snakes in the wild and have kept some of the prettiest examples for our breeding colony.

Below: A three month old juvenile that is already starting to develop adult coloration

South Florida Yellow Rat Snake Elaphe obsoleta quadrivittata Juvenile 



In the Wild

Below: An "island" of Australian pines near the edge of a canal in the cane fields. Sites like this are ideal habitat for rat snakes and scarlet king snakes. Florida king snakes, eastern garter snakes, and water snakes are common on the canal banks.

Cane Field Tree Island

Rat snakes are abundant throughout much of South Florida and especially so in Everglades Agricultural Area south of Lake Okeechobee. This area was once part of the vast marshy expanse of the Everglades. However, the fertile muck soil of the region proved perfect for agriculture and in the early to mid 20th century much of the water in the marshes was drained into the ditches and canals that now criss-cross the landscape here. Exotic Australian pines were planted along the canals as windbreaks. Concrete, woods, and tin buildings were built to store agricultural equipment and house the pumps used to control water levels. Sugar cane and sod were planted in the fertile fields.

Below: Four juvenile snakes found under the same piece of bark: two yellow rat snakes, an Everglades racer, and a scarlet king snake

South Florida Yellow Rat Snakes Everglades Racer Scarlet King Snake

Though the habitat was highly modified, certain animals species found the new conditions very hospitable. Rodents and rabbits fed on the sugar cane and burrowed into the banks of canals creating and endless matrix of tunnels that provided perfect habitat for snakes. Rodent eating snakes like rat snakes and king snakes gorged on the bountiful food source and took shelter in the burrows.

Above: Daniel pulls a rat snake from the roof of an old building on a rainy summer evening

Daniel South Florida Yellow Rat Snake Elaphe obsoleta quadrivittata

For the semi-arboreal rat snakes, the Australian pines and pump houses created  additional shelter and hunting spots. In fact, as snake collectors soon learned, rat snakes took shelter in just about any crack or crevice they could find off of the ground. Clever snake hunters could find the snakes in cracks in bridges and railroad trestles, in holes in telephone poles, under the flaked bark of dead Australian pines, in the roofs of and rafters of buildings, and even the engines of pumps and tractors. Additionally, all of the snakes of the region could be found under various artificial cover that littered the road sides and canal banks.

Below: A rat snake found between the tin sheets in the roof of an old building
South Florida Yellow Rat Snake Elaphe obsoleta quadrivittata In Shed

Below: An orange and yellow rat snake showing traits associated with rossalleni

South Florida Yellow Rat Snake Elaphe obsoleta quadrivittata


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