Mandarin Rat Snake

By Snaketracks / March 28, 2020
mandarin rat snake
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Mandarin Rat Snake Facts

Mandarin rat snakes possess a remarkable natural beauty. Unfortunately, these snakes rarely show their beauty: they are reclusive and don’t make good display animals. They usually hide all day and become active in the evening.

They’re nonvenomous. even if their bright colors and diamond pattern may also look dangerous.

Quick Reference

  • Binomial name: Euprepiophis mandarinus

This name was given by CANTOR in 1842 (Reference: The Reptile Database (http://reptile-database.reptarium.cz/species?genus=Euprepiophis&species=mandarinus)

  • Other:  Elaphe mandarina  (given by SMITH, M., A. in 1943)

In recent years there has been some taxonomic controversy over the genera of rat snakes based on mitochondrial DNA.  UTIGER et al. (2002) argued for a splintering of the genus Elaphe and suggested a reworking of the genera.

  • Alternative names collected by The Reptile Database are:
  • Coluber mandarinus  given by CANTOR in 1842
  • Coluber mandarinus given by BOULENGER in 1894
  • Ablabes pavo given by ANNANDALE  in 1912 (fide SMITH 1943)
  • Elaphe mandarinus  given by STEJNEGER in 1925
  • Elaphe takasago  given by TAKAHASHI  in 1930
  • Holarchus  roulei given by ANGEL & BOURRET in 1933 (fide SMITH 1943)
  • Elaphe mandarina given by SIMITÍ in 1943
  • Elaphe mandarinus given by  FLECK in 1985
  • Elaphe mandarina given by DAS  in 1996
  • Elaphe mandarina given by SCHULZ in 1996
  • Euprepiophis  mandarinus given by UTIGER et al.in  2002
  • Euprepiophis mandarinus given by GUMPRECHT in 2003
  • Elaphe mandarina given by ZHAO in 2006
  • Euprepiophis mandarinus given by CHEN et al. In 2013
  • Euprepiophis mandarina given by PYRON & BURBRINK in 2013
  • Euprepiophis mandarinus   given by WALLACH et al. in 2014

Concerning the use of the term “Euprepiophis”, it is interesting to learn that “Euprepiophis mandarina” can be translated as “pretty mandarin snake”,  as “euprepes” is Greek for “good looking” and “ophis” means “snake”.

Another interesting fact regarding the name of these snakes is that the Chinese name 高砂蛇 (gao1sha1she2) consists of the three characters for “high/tall”, “sand/gravel” and “snake”. The first two characters 高砂 are a Japanese term for “high mountain” or “high sand” and represent the name the Japanese snake researcher S. Takahashi (高橋精) gave this species in the 1930s.

  • Family: Colubridae (non venomous)
  • Constrictor: Yes
  • Average size: it is a relatively small rat snake,  adult size is 1.4 m (4ft 7 in) or less in total length (body + tail)
  • Diet: in the wild these snakes are generalist carnivores and opportunistic feeders (fledgling birds, eggs, and rodents). In captivity, the predominant food is pinky mice. Generally, a single pinkie mouse fed once a week is sufficient.
  • Reproduction: oviparous

What does the Mandarin rat snakes look like?

mandarin-rat-snake
Mandarin Rat

The body is medium stout; tail is medium in length. Head is oval with the slightly blunt snout; the eye is medium-sized; iris is dark brown to blackish and pupil is round, black, and less distinct from the rest of the eye.

The tongue is flesh-colored with gray fork tips. The upper head is yellow and the labials are white, except three broad, black cross-bands.

Upper body and tail are purplish-gray or even reddish, with a series of conspicuous, yellow-margined, yellow-centered, black saddles separated from one another by the length of 1-2 scales. There may also be a lateral series of small, black spots. 

There is no sexual dimorphism, but during the mating season, the males are recognizable by a swollen tail base.

Where can Mandarin rat snakes be found?

Mandarin rat snakes can be found in the rocky forests and farmlands within China, Taiwan, Burma, and Vietnam where the climate is fairly cool and humid. They have occasionally been found in few localities in the extreme northeastern states in India.

Originally thought to be a montane species, they are now known to live at elevations below 500 meters in some parts of its range. Most commonly found at elevations of 2000-2500 meters, they have also been recorded at as high as 3000 meters in Tibet.

What kind of habitat does the Mandarin rat snakes live in?

Mandarin rat snake habitats are varied including rain forests to open farmland, rice fields, rocky scrubland, areas with dense vegetation and grassy fields.

They feel comfortable at an average temperature of 25°C or lower, with humidity ranging from 60-80%.

While maintaining the right amount of humidity is a must to avoid desiccation, the  temperature issue must also be taken in account by snake owners, especially because mandarin rat snakes refuse to take food at higher temperatures (temperature-dependent anorexia)  Source: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/296757800_Causes_of_mortality_in_juvenile_mandarin_rat_snakes_Euprepiophis_Elaphe_mandarinus_due_to_improper_captive_maintenance

Fresh, clean water should also be available at all times. 

Last but not least, and considering they are very shy snakes, the substrate is also an important aspect of proper Mandarin care as these snakes need a substrate that allows them to dig and hide in their enclosure, which will make them feel secure.

How long does the Mandarin rat snakes live?

Until recently, keepers were mostly working with unstable, wild-caught  Mandarin rat snakes of indeterminate age and that made figuring out their natural lifespan difficult.  Successful breeders have learned much since then, and 10 to 15 years of age appears typical. 

How many eggs does the Mandarin rat snakes lay?

In summer, females produce 5-16 eggs of approximately 3×1.5 cm per clutch, which hatch after 42- 55 days.

How can I get my own Mandarin Rat Snake?

Wild snakes can be imported, but they tend to be stressed from the capture, be more finicky in their eating habits, and have parasites. 

Mandarin rat snakes are uncommon in pet stores, but can be found online through breeders’ websites: the successful captive breeding of these snakes is becoming much more common and captive-bred individuals are usually available every year in the fall.

The average price range with a breeder: $225 – $250 (breeders in the US)

Mandarin Rat Snake History & Overview Video

Conclusion

Even if they are reclusive and don`t make good display animals, Mandarin Rat Snakes are highly sought after for their vibrant colors, incredible pattern, and manageable size.

However, as captive breeding of Mandarin Rat snakes is a relatively new phenomenon concerning other snake species,  most of the Mandarins around are of the F2 or F3 generation which is not far removed from wild-caught animals. Being a little more on the wild side, they are not meant for inexperienced keepers, because they are a challenging snake to keep and handle.

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