The colour of snakes cannot always be relied upon, there are some very dark watersnakes, and the skin colour can vary depending on whether a snake has recently shed its skin. Young snakes can also be difficult to differentiate.
Black ratsnakes are currently listed under threatened status in Ontario. Habitat loss, traffic danger, and human persecution have diminished their numbers. The range of these snakes is now limited in Ontario to the Frontenac Axis and to a few fragmented areas along the north shore of Lake Erie. It is unfortunate that these snakes don't receive more respect, they are harmless and beneficial, as they eat rodents such as mice. Chris handed out some copies of the booklet "The Black Rat Snake/A Landowner's Guide to Helping It Recover". This information can be downloaded online at
Hibernacula can be difficult to find, and due the nature of places where these snakes overwinter (rock piles, under snaggly tree roots) these places are even more difficult to examine. Several snakes can gather together in these hibernation shelters, and in the company of other species of snakes as well. These are places especially important for preservation.
This is only a short account about black ratsnakes, we would encourage people to find out more about this interesting species. A google search will provide many more details on nesting, habitats, etc., and there are many field guides and reptile books available containing good information about Ontario snakes.
Posting and Photos: R. Burke