Gray Ratsnake (Pantherophis spiloides)
Status: endangered (Carolinian population), threatened (Frontenac Arch population)
Elusive and secretive, the Gray Ratsnake is the largest snake found in Canada. They can grow to be 2.5 meters long. Juvenile snakes have a mottled pattern that gradually fades as they age to become a sleek dark gray on the back with a white belly once they reach adult hood. There are only 2 populations found in Ontario, one in southern Ontario along the north shore of Lake Erie and here in the Frontenac Arch. This region is perfect for this snake, as it prefers hardwood forests in close proximity to water. This snake is an excellent climber and may be seen up a tree or bush sunning, preparing to shed its skin or hunting for prey. They may also be seen on rocky outcroppings were they frequently find cracks and crevices to escape the heat of the day. Females will lay their eggs in the spring and the babies hatch in early fall. During the winter months, large groups of Gray Ratsnakes will hibernate together in rocky outcroppings called hibernacula. Individuals are faithful to these locations and will return year after year. The decline in their populations has been chiefly due to loss of habitat by man as well as fear and ignorance. The presence of a 2.5 meter snake can be troubling to many people and many snakes have been killed when they stray into yards or along busy roads. But this snake is far from dangerous. If encountered, they will rarely bite, instead opting for an opportunity to flee. So if you happen to see one of these stunningly beautiful snakes on the trail, take a look but give it a wide path. And if one wants to share your property for a bit, remember their gentle nature and hopefully you will opt to allow them to stay as a guest…they will surely repay the kindness in helping out with any rodent problems you may have.
Note the dark black/gray top and the noticeably white chin and underside.
Note the distinct dark gray blotches over a lighter gray.