Green Rat Snake (Gonyosoma oxycephalum)

By Snaketracks / March 30, 2020
Green Rat Snake
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Red-tailed Green Rat Snake

Red-tailed green rat snakes can be identified by their striking green that blends in well with trees and caves in lowland jungles and forests.

Despite what their name also, their tail is not always or even usually red. Sometimes they have magenta or even gray tails instead.

Other distinctive characteristics are their blue tongues (like blue tongue skinks) that flick in and out when they feel threatened.

Quick Reference Section

  • Scientific Name: Gonyosoma oxycephalum (named after the shape of the head (oxy = sharp, cepala = head)
  • Alternate Names: arboreal rat snake/red-tailed racer
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Size: the female can reach a length of up to 2.4 m (almost 8 feet), while the male is generally a little bit smaller but brighter in coloration.
  • Diet: omnivore
  • Reproduction: Oviparous
  • Active Time: Daytime

Interesting Facts About Green Rat Snakes

face of a red tailed green ratsnake
Face of a red tailed green ratsnake

In captivity, red-tailed green rat snakes have a “reputation” that they may strike at or bite an unwary handler.

This might occur when the snake is stressed. You will know when your red-tailed racer is stressed or feels threatened as it may inflate a bag of air in its neck, making it appear larger. 

It might also flare up its body vertically – not horizontally like the cobras,  and turn this part sideways to you.  They can strike from nearly any position.

Although rat snakes are not venomous and they lack two fangs seen in venomous species, a bite from any rat snake can be rather painful, as the saliva of the snake may contain bacteria and could cause an infection that may need treated.

While its true temperament can be unpredictable, as a green rat snake owner, with training and time your snake can most likely be tamed.

What Does The Green Rat Snake Look Like?

arboreal snake
Arboreal Snake (Green Rat Snake)

Thin-bodied yet robust, this powerful snake was first described by Friedrich Boie in 1827.

Their belly scales are rough and ideal for climbing trees while they have smaller, smooth scales on their backs, which are usually bright green or light green and may have a black net-like pattern.

On the sides of its black tongue, there may be a brown and or blue color. The top of the head may be dark green, yellow-green, or yellow and there is usually a dark line horizontally across the eye.

This snake species doesn’t have a notable sexual dimorphism in relation to its size or color.

As with any other snake, there are different morphs, and this one has a gray-colored morph with a yellow head that exists in Panay, in the Philippines. (pictured below)

Red Tailed Green Rat Snake in silver phase
Red Tailed Green Rat Snake in silver phase

Where Can The Green Rat Snake Be Found?

The Type locality is Indonesia: Java (F. Boie, 1827). But it can be found in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, India (Andaman Islands), Myanmar,  Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

What Kind Of Habitat Do Green Rat Snake’s Live In?

two red tailed green snake rat snakes on branch
Two red tailed green snake rat snakes on branch

Green rat snakes prefer lowland and up to about 750m above sea level in the tropical rain forest or in subtropical montane forests, and agricultural (farmed) land.

They spend most of their time in trees and bushes and they seldom come down to the ground.

What Does The Green Rat Snake Eat?

Green rat snakes feed almost exclusively on birds, bird eggs, lizards, and bats. They catch them in mid-air while hanging amongst branches and are also known to raid birds’ nests.

In captivity, they can be trained to feed on rodents such as mice and rats.

How Long Does The Green Rat Snake Live?

The average lifespan of a green rat snake in captivity is 20 years and around 15 years in the wild.

How Many Eggs Does The Green Rat Snake Lay?

Red Tailed Racer
Red tailed racer

Red-tailed green rat snakes reach sexual maturity at 4 years of age and produce several clutches annually with each clutch comprising between 5–12 eggs.

They usually lay their eggs between September and January and have an incubation period from 13 to 16 weeks. Once born the hatchlings are around 45 cm (18 inches) long.

Green rat snakes are currently bred in captivity and some breeders believe offering a nighttime drop in temperature of approximately 7 to 10 degrees fahrenheit induces breeding.

This cooling process is traditionally begun near Thanksgiving and ended around New Year’s Day.

Some breeders believe that this is the only way to induce a female to produce follicles; others think that as long as a proper gradient is offered to healthy adult animals, they will cycle on their own.

You can house a pair together year-round (be sure to separate them when feeding) and theoretically end up with three to five eggs any month of the year. Multiple clutches per year are common with well-established pairings.

What Predators Does The Green Rat Snake Have?

These snakes can live in the wild for about 15 years on average – if they don’t encounter a predator like the King cobra. King cobras love to eat green rat snakes!

Is It Legal To Have Green Rat Snakes As A Pet?

red-tailed green snake rat snake head with black marks
Red-tailed green snake rat snake

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has some say over the pets Americans can own. But individual states have their own laws, too.

In most states, it is legal to catch and keep venomous snakes as pets, but only with a permit. In other states, it is entirely illegal to own them.

Hawaii has the strictest pet ownership laws because its ecosystem could be disrupted by invasive species. On the other end of the spectrum, five states allow residents to own exotic pets — even lions, tigers, and bears.

Nevada, Wisconsin, Alabama, North Carolina, and South Carolina each have lax laws when it comes to pet ownership.

Before buying your pet snake you can check A Guide to State Laws on Owning Venomous Snakes as Pets.

Red Tail Green Rat Snake Feeding

Conclusion

The green rat snake is not a pet for beginners.

Even for an experienced pet snake owner, buying specimens grown in captivity is always for the best: while imported animals do not generally ever completely calm down, hatchlings produced in captivity will often calm down after their first year and become less defensive and subsequently less inclined to bite.

Flightiness is to be expected, but calm, confident handling will eventually show the animal that you are not a threat.

Do you own a one of these beauties? Let us know in the comments below about your experiences.

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