‘Extremely large’ snake spotted in NY; what to do if you see one

If you plan to roam around Congers Lake in Rockland County – you might want to keep your eyes open for a very large snake.

The snake, which officials believe is a black rat snake, was spotted in recent days in Clarkstown giving visitors quite a scare.

The reptile is around 5 feet long, but can be up to 8 feet in size. They typically feed on small rodents such as rats, but are also known to eat frogs and birds. According to wildlife experts, they are not poisonous and are not a threat to humans. 

Photo credit: Town of Clarkstown Facebook page

In a post on Facebook, the Town of Clarkstown said, "It is prime season to see them as they emerge from hibernation and the temperature is still cool out. They feed on mice, voles, small birds and eggs etc. If you see this snake or others like it just give it space, they will be slower this time of year due to weather and will pose no harm to any residents."

"A single rat snake can consume over 100 rodents a year," according to the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

What are black rat snakes?

Eastern rat snakes, formerly known as black rat snakes, have shiny black scales on their backs and a light colored belly. Their throat and chin are white, and the head is wider than the neck and the rest of the body, according to the National Wildlife Federation.

Photo credit: Town of Clarkstown Facebook page

The nonprofit organization says the snakes live in fields, woodlands, farmlands and around suburban communities from Connecticut to South Carolina. Predators include hawks and other snakes.

When are the snakes most visible?

The typical breeding season is from May to late June. During this time, male snakes search for females and will fight one another for the right to mate with a female.

Should humans be worried?

The snakes are often mistreated by humans who are frightened of them. Although they do not usually attack when threatened, there have been extreme cases of them charging at predators. 


14-foot python found along Medford road

Conservation officers found the massive snake curled up on the side of the road in February.

Eastern rat snakes are very shy and at the sight of danger will either freeze or slither away, despite making occasional appearances throughout the summer. The animals also produce a strong foul odor when scared to deter predators and humans.

How many snake species are in NY?

Black rat snakes are the largest species in New York, which is home to 17 species of snakes. The most widespread and frequently encountered snakes in the state are the garter and water snake.