Species in Focus – Indian Rat Snake

Misunderstood.

He must hide in the shadows, for if he enters the light, he is danger. He is hated across the globe. But enter he must, for without the heat of the sun, he will shiver and die.

The first time I saw a rat snake was a complete accident. I had gone to meet a friend on the other side of town. While leaving, I lazily set my eyes on the nearby garbage dump. As I walked past, I slowly made out the 5ft long serpentine body of a snake.

It took me a few seconds to comprehend the sight before me. I had no knowledge of snakes whatsoever, and therefore did not know what I was looking at. I just watched as this animal basked in the afternoon sun. Excited, I grabbed my father’s phone and took a some photographs. Sensing its cover was blown, the animal moved further into the dump, and within a few seconds it had vanished.

On reaching home, I dug through my archives for my old snake identification guide. My father had bought one for me when I was really young, but as is with childhood passions, this one took a backseat as I grew up. I swung it open, and begun comparing my photographs to the ones in the book.

After a few hours of detailed analysis, I concluded that what I saw was a juvenile rat snake.

While this is not my first snake encounter, it is what kickstarted my love for these animals. While I am consumed by all things wildlife, I have a particularly unique connection with snakes. I realised this that fateful day in my childhood. I didn’t know it then, but I was to spend many of my following years in search of these reptiles.

Following that moment, I’ve had many encounters with the Rat Snake. I’ve seen it hunt a chameleon, male to male combat, resting, and more. I followed an individual through the forest until it bush became entirely impenetrable.

Dead rat snake on the road.
Rat Snake Roadkill

Many years hence, and I have encountered a plethora of snakes. But this encounter will remain seared into memory. It marked the beginning of a journey that has brought me much joy and fulfilment.

In a world where our oligarchs take off into space, I hope there is still fascination for the humble creatures of our world. Will someone else also share in the joy and wonder these animals ignite in me?

Fact File

Indian Rat Snake (Ptyas mucosa)

  • Length: 320-3500 mm.
  • Found throughout India (except extreme Himalayas), Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Cambodia, Taiwan, China, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Iran, Laos Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Thailand, Turkmenistan and Vietnam.
  • Egg layers (Oviparous)

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Published by Ishan Shanavas

I am a young adult, interested in nature, photography, art and culture. An aspiring polymath, I share my learnings through my blog. I also include insights from my favourite books.

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