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Mandarin Rat Snake

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.

The Mandarin rat snake is nonvenomous, even if its bright colors and diamond pattern may look dangerous.

Quick Reference

  • Binomial name: Euprepiophis mandarinus

This name was given by CANTOR in 1842 according to The Reptile Database.

  • Other name:  Elaphe mandarina

This name was given to the snake 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  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.

FamilyConstrictorAverage Size
Colubridae (non-venomous)YesRelatively small. The adult size is 1.4 m or 4 ft, 7-inches long. This is in total length from body to tail
Diet in the WildDiet in CaptivityReproduction
Carnivorous and opportunistic feeders who eat fledgling birds, eggs, and small rodentsCaptive bred specimens prefer pinky mice and are the predominant food, eating one per weekOviparous, meaning producing young through eggs hatched after they have been laid

What Does the Mandarin Rat Snakes Look Like?

Mandarin Rat

The body of this snake species is medium stout, and the tail is medium in length. The Mandarin rat snake is also considered a relatively small rat snake. The head is oval with a slightly blunt snout; the eyes are medium-sized with irises appearing dark brown to blackish. The snake’s pupils are 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 for three broad, black cross-bands.

The upper body and tail are purplish-gray or even reddish in color, 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 the males of this snake species are recognizable by a swollen tail base during the mating season.

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 their 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 vary, including rain forests to open farmland, rice fields, rocky scrubland, 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 considered by snake owners, especially because mandarin rat snakes refuse to take food at higher temperatures.

This is known as temperature-dependent anorexia and is a cause of mortality in juvenile Mandarin rat snakes 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 the dark places of their enclosure, which will make them feel much more 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 Until recently, keepers were mostly working with unstable, wild-caught Mandarin rat snakes of indeterminate age, making it difficult to figure out their natural lifespan.  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 the 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 more stressed out from the capture, can prove to be more finicky in their eating habits, and often 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

Are Mandarin Rat Snakes Good for Beginners?

Some rat snakes are indeed a good choice for beginners. They are a more docile intermediate species. However, the Mandarin rat snake is considered an advanced rat snake with mountain rat snakes, rhino rat snakes, and red-tailed green rat snakes.

There are very specific care requirements you must follow for these rat snakes, and you have to be aware that they have proven to be much more defensive than other types, meaning they may bite you. If you don’t follow through with proper care, they can fall ill very easily since they are so sensitive.

As a pet, the Mandarin rat snake is a smaller size and requires a less demanding temperature in its enclosure compared to other snakes; however, they aren’t going to be as cuddly as you might want, and it may take some time for them to learn how to be comfortable with you as a handler.

Mandarin Rat Snake Care Guide

We have touched on a few care points above but let’s take a closer look at other aspects of Mandarin rat snake care that you will want to consider.

Lighting and Décor

UVB has been beneficial for the snake’s health and well-being, as it can boost its immune system. A larger vivarium with a reflector, however, can also prove to be even more beneficial. In addition, since the Mandarin rat snake is shy, they will want to have hiding places they can retreat to throughout the day.

So, make sure there is plenty of branches, plants, and leaf litter in the enclosure so they can feel more secure.

They prefer full-spectrum lighting between 12 and 14 hours per day and should have access to a basking area and is considered the cool zone.

The water bowl you use should also be large enough that the snake can submerge themselves, allowing them to stay hydrated and helps when they need to shed their skin. When it comes to substrate, you want forest-type bedding that allows you to continue to control the humidity level.

Coco soil or Acadia Earthmix are two good choices you can use mixed with moist sphagnum moss or leaf litter. Follow this with a light misting of the enclosure each day to keep the desired humidity level.

Cleaning the Enclosure

You should spot clean the Mandarin rat snake’s cage daily and give it a good and thorough cleaning once every couple of months. This means removing everything from the tank, wiping it all down, disinfecting it, adding in fresh substrate, and cleaning any décor you have, including the water bowl.

These snakes only defecate about once per week, so it should be easy to keep up with the cleaning and maintenance of their habitat.


Finally, most handlers and Mandarin rat snake owners feed their snake frozen-thawed small rodents like mice as they grow. Adults may be able to consume an extra-large mouse when they are bigger and older.

Weekly feeding is best, but as the handler, you need to judge the growth and condition of your snake to determine the best feeding schedule.

Fun Mandarin Rat Snake Facts

We will leave you with a few more fun facts about rat snakes.

  • They are not commonly kept as pets
  • Females can lay between six eggs and two dozen eggs: typically, in Late July
  • A hatchling will stay close to its hatching site for up to two years
  • Comfortable in cooler temperatures
  • When disturbed, the Mandarin rat snake may bite, spit, or musk their attacker
  • Habitats are being slowly reduced due to land development and tree cutting; however, they are maintaining a healthy population
  • They are more active around dawn and dusk when they have a heavily covered area
  • Rat snakes are often used to help control pest populations


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 challenging snakes to keep and handle.

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