Mexican Tiger Rat Snake

snake bar

Mexican Tiger Rat Snake FWZ
Name: Mexican Tiger Rat Snake AKA Tropical Chicken Snake, Whip Snake, Tiger Racer
Scientific name: Spilotes pullatus mexicanus
Range: Central America
Habitat: Rain forests and heavily wooded grasslands
Status: Not threatened
Diet in the wild: mice, rats, birds, lizards, frogs,and almost any  small animal that they can get their mouths around
Diet in the zoo: Mice
Location in the zoo: Herpetarium
    Physical description:
  • Body length up to 10'-12'. 
  • Weight: no more than 10 pounds
  • Color: alternating yellow and black patchy bands, diagonal over the midbody and becoming vertical at the tail. 
  • Head is usually yellow with very big eyes.
  • Underside of snake is white with black stripes.

General information: 

Mex Tiger Rat Snake FWZThe Mexican Tiger Rat Snake is one of the longest snakes of the Americas.  Since the snake lives in areas with tall trees and vegetation, their special color patterns of yellow and black help them blend in perfectly with the speckled sunlight shining down through the trees.

This particular species of snake is usually very docile when left alone, but when provoked they will shake their tails (despite not having a rattle) and hiss very loudly.  They can also inflate their necks dramatically.  If this does not warn off the intruder, then the Mexican Tiger Rat Snake will strike repeatedly.

Mexican tiger rat snakes are oviparous and the hatched young resemble their parents.   The colors of young snakes may become either a little darker or paler as they age, depending on subspecies or population, but there is no dramatic change in pattern.   Some juvenile Tiger Rat Snakes have deeper golden or orange banding around the midsection; only the Mexican subspecies retains the deeper color as the adult. 


There are several subspecies of this snake, with varying amounts of black and yellow in their pattern. 

The growth of snakes is indeterminate -- they continue to grow throughout their lifetimes. 

Special anatomical, physiological 
or behavioral adaptations:

The Mexican Tiger Rat Snake is a superb hunter.  Their primary sense for seeking out prey is their acute eyesight.  With very enlarged eyes, their vision ranks among the highest of all serpents.  They seem to gauge distance by trangulation, moving their heads from side to side like a hawk or owl.  Their other deadly weapon is their speed.  Mexican Tiger Rat Snakes are extremely quick and by the time their prey has spotted them, it is usually too late. Although they are capable of constricting their prey, they normally just swallow them alive.  They have indeed been described as being  one of the "the fastest ophidian swallowers in the West (Blais)." 

Mex Tiger Rat Snake FWZ
Mexican Tiger Rat Snake at the Fort Worth Zoo.
Comments about the Mexican Tiger Rat Snakes of the Fort Worth Zoo:

The Fort Worth Zoo has one male and one female Mexican Tiger Rat Snake.  However, the zoo has been yet to hatch any babies from the fairly juvenile pair.  These two snakes can be very rewarding to watch because they are usually active during the day, unlike many of the more nocturnal snakes at the zoo.

Personal Observations:

Unlike many of the snakes that can be found at the Zoo, these two snakes always seem to be exploring the confines of their provided habitat. Maybe they are just curious by nature, or maybe they are looking for a way out! 

Source Materials and Related Links:

Special thanks to the Fort Worth Zoo and their helpful placard.


Page author: Jeff Cates

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