Deckert's Rat Snake Elaphe obsoleta "deckerti"


Below:  Burnt orange striped and blotched Deckert's rat snake

Deckert's (Florida Keys) Rat Snake Elaphe obsoleta deckerti

Rat snakes from the Florida Keys and the extreme southern mainland of Florida were formerly known as Elaphe obsoleta deckerti. Deckerti is characterized by a combination of stripes and blotches throughout life, with yellowish-orange to deep burnt orange background.

Below: A lighter orange adult Deckert's rat snake

Deckert's (Florida Keys) Rat Snake

 A sampling of wild specimens reveals it to be quite variable in pattern and coloration and many do not display the traits typically associated with the form. Due to its weak differentiation from E. o. quadrivittata, the subspecies never got much respect from herpetologists, including Richard F. Deckert, after whom it was named. The form is now considered invalid. It is rarely seen in the wild and only a few breeders are working with it in captivity. This is a shame since the nicest specimens are some of the most beautiful naturally occurring obsoleta.

Below: A Deckert's rat snake with an orange eye and white labial scales

Deckert's (Florida Keys) Rat Snake Elaphe obsoleta deckerti

Due to the rarity of this form, our colony was difficult to put together. It includes stock descending from John Decker's outstanding bloodline and also stock collected out of the wild by us and other dedicated collectors. The coloration of our examples runs from orange yellow to deep orange. They are variable and we are not always able to access their potential as hatchlings.

Below: Subadult Deckert's rat snake starting to develop orange coloration

Deckert's (Florida Keys) Rat Snake Elaphe obsoleta deckerti 


In the Wild

The Deckert's rat snake is an animal of tropical Florida. The fauna in this area is mostly North American in origin, while the flora is of Caribbean descent. Its preferred habitats are tropical hardwoods hammocks and mangrove swamps.

Below: Tropical Hardwood Hammock

Tropical Hardwood Hammcok Miami-Dade County, FL

Below:  Mangrove swamp in the Florida Keys

Mangrove Swamp Florida Keys

Compared many of its more familiar brethren, the Deckert's rat snake is difficult to hunt for in the wild. It is uncommon in much of its small range and areas where it might be more common are difficult to access. Its range is bisected by only a few busy roads that are difficult to cruise.  It has been field collected by a few lucky individuals by shining trees at night, or simply walking in habitat. It has even been found in the classic rat snake fashion utilizing an abandoned building, but due to the layout of its range and habitat, this is an uncommon situation. It is even more difficult to find beautiful specimens. In fact, the range of variation in these snakes actually seems very similar to what we have seen in rat snakes from Central Florida, including the orange colored examples and level of retained blotching.

Below:  A big red-tongued Deckert's phase specimen from Southern Miami-Dade County, FL



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