White Oak Gray Rat Snake Elaphe obsoleta spiloides

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Below: A classic white oak gray rat snake from our colony

White oak gray rat snake Elaphe obsoleta spiloides

The White oak phase is a beautiful natural color variation of gray rat snake that occurs in various areas of the Florida panhandle. Unlike other  Elaphe obsoleta subspecies, spiloides retains the blotched juvenile pattern and coloration throughout life. Compared with the typical gray rat snake the White oak phase is defined by a light overall look of light gray blotches on a silver, almost white background.

Below: A silver adult from our breeding group

White oak gray rat snake Elaphe obsoleta spiloides

Many herpers travel to the Florida panhandle hoping to see rat snakes that fit this description. Often they are disappointed as most of the rat snakes have muddy grays and browns typically associated with spiloides. Only a small percentage of wild gray rat snakes display the striking light coloration of our breeding stock. It took many trips to the Florida panhandle and networking with other breeders to put together the colony of White oak snakes that we have now.

Below: Another outstanding oak snake with gray blotches on a light silver background

White oak gray rat snake Elaphe obsoleta spiloides

We are working with several different variations on the white oak theme that we may be able to offer to the public in the future. Gray rat snakes with random mottling that produces a calico like pattern pop up occasionally in the Apalachicola region. We call this the "malt" look. We have an adult male White oak in our colony that displays this look. This is a trait that we may select for in the future.

Below: The calico or "malt" oak snake with random brown mottling

White oak gray rat snake Elaphe obsoleta spiloides "Malt Phase"

As you move west in the Florida panhandle, the rat snakes tend to have more elongated blotches and a darker mask pattern on the head. In some ways they look somewhat similar to the Texas rat snake (E. o. lindheimeri) that occurs further to the west. Many of these snakes are rather dark and unappealing, but we have managed to located a few that show the light White oak coloration. We have an impressive five and a half foot adult male from Escambia County that we sometimes call our "White oak Texas rat" because in head shape and pattern he looks a lot like lindheimeri, but with the classic Florida silver coloration.

Below: A big adult descending from Escambia County in the extreme western Florida panhandle.

White Oak Gray Rat Snake Elaphe obsoleta spiloides

 

 

In the Wild

Gray rat snakes are common through out the Florida panhandle. The "white oak" phase may occur in its highest abundance in the Apalachicola region, being found alongside (and occasionally preyed upon) by the elusive Apalachicola king snake.  Nice white oak phase specimens like the ones we breed are a small percentage of the wild gray rat snake population and field collecting a nice one is quite a challenge. 

Below: Pine flatwoods in the Florida panhandle

Pine flatwoods Apalachicola Florida panhandle

Much of the southern part of the Apalachicola region is forested in natural flat woods or pine plantations. To the north, farmland and cattle pastures replace the forest. The gray rat snake utilizes a variety of habitats in this region. In undisturbed natural areas it may be most common at the edges of deciduous woodlands, but it has taken advantage of agricultural areas and other altered habitats that may have higher densities of rodents. 

Below: This gray rat snake was encountered on a dirt road in the late afternoon

Gray rat snake Elaphe obsoleta spiloides Dirt road

The classic rat snake hunting techniques of flipping tin and checking the rafters of abandoned structures are effective for finding gray rat snakes. Road cruising is also a good way to find them. Adults are often seen crossing dirt roads in the late afternoon in the summer. Just after sunset is "hot time" for road cruising and it seems that rat snakes of any size as well as many other snakes can turn up at this time on dirt or pavement. Juveniles are often seen on pavement later at night.

Below: Daniel and Anthony flipped a gray rat snake and corn snake under guard rails in a disturbed area. This spot has since been bulldozed. (Photo by Bill Love)

Daniel Parker Anthony guardrails Gray rat snake Florida panhandle

Below: A gray rat snake that could be considered a White oak phase example. It was found under tin in Gulf County, Florida

White oak gray rat snake Elaphe obsoleta spiloides Gulf County, Florida

 

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