Friday, June 12, 2015

This is Not A Giant Water Snake from Natchitoches, Louisiana

     This picture has now made its way to me a couple times so let's do this.

    First of all, the snake is not as big as it seems because of a camera trick called forced perspective. This trick involves holding the subject (in this case, a snake) closer to the camera than anything else in the photograph. This functions to make the subject look big - check out any picture of someone holding up a fish - they know the trick very well. If you are new to the blog, I talk about snakes and forced perspective ad nauseum here.

   Moving on, this is a Rat Snake, a common resident of the eastern and central United States. This particular kind of Rat Snake is a Western Rat Snake (Pantherophis obsoletus). Rat Snakes are found throughout Louisiana, so I don't have any reason to doubt the stated location. They do get quite big: a huge Rat Snake could even get up to seven feet long (and maybe a little longer). However, the original Facebook posting of this picture alleges that it is 14 feet long and 175 pounds. That's impossible. Not only is it silly to suggest that this Rat Snake is twice as long as the world's largest known Rat Snake, but just try to lift up a 175 pound weight on a long stick. You won't be able to do it. If you asked me to guess, I would say this Rat Snake is 5-6 feet long, tops, and maybe five pounds.

    Apparently some folks are saying that this snake has been eating hogs around Natchitoches. I'm going to go ahead and say that is false too. Rat Snakes eat a wide variety of mammals and birds, but the biggest thing they could get down their throats is likely a small rabbit. None have ever been documented eating a pig (or a piglet).
   Please provide a link to this blog post wherever you see this picture pop up.

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