Known for its unique color pattern, the white oak snake gets its name from its ability to blend into the bark of oak trees using its similar coloration. Despite the name, this snake species is quite at home on the ground as well as up in the trees. Some other common names of this species include the gray rat snake and the oak snake.
White Oak Snake vs. Gray Rat Snake
In a sense, the white oak snake and the gray rat snake are one and the same. However, though all white oak snakes are gray rat snakes, not all gray rat snakes are white oak snakes! The white oak snake is a unique color variation of the common gray rat snake.
Gray rat snakes typically have a brown coloration with dark brown mottling or blotches of darker color. White oak snakes have a unique color pattern. They have a base color of light ash, and darker gray mottling. The unique color variation is the same species as other gray rat snakes, and at this time does not have a separate subspecies designation.
Where Do White Oak Snakes Live?
The white oak snake lives only in the panhandle of Florida and the extreme southern regions of Georgia. The gray rat snake species as a whole ranges through much of eastern North America, from Canada through Florida. However, its range does not extend up the eastern coastline north of Georgia or down the coastline south of New York. You can find both color variants of gray rat snakes in the Florida panhandle and in southern Georgia.
Are White Oak Snakes Aggressive?
This snake species is not aggressive in nature. Like most snakes, white oak snakes will bite to defend themselves if necessary, but they typically attempt to retreat rather than bite. In fact, most cases of bites from this species occur when the snake is intentionally picked up or handled, or when they are cornered.
As defense mechanisms, this species either flees or freezes when danger approaches. If pressed more closely, they move into an s-shaped position and rapidly shake their tail in leaf litter, which produces a buzzing noise similar to that of a rattlesnake.
Are White Oak Snakes Venomous?
White oak snakes are not venomous. Gray rat snakes as a whole are also non-venomous. They don't pose a danger to people or pets. Though they will bite to defend themselves, their bite is entirely harmless, albeit not quite painless! However, there is no reason to fear this species, and they actually benefit humans greatly because they hunt rats and other pests.
Please remember that any animal can bite to defend itself, and you should only handle or interact with snakes that you are positive are non-venomous. When in doubt, the best route is to simply leave the snake alone!
Poisonous vs. Venomous
White oak snakes are not poisonous or venomous. In fact, very few snake species are actually poisonous. A venomous animal has venom sacs that it uses to inject venom when it bites or stings. A poisonous animal contains poisonous toxins that impact another animal if that second animal bites it. Essentially, if it bites you and you get sick, it's venomous. If you bite it and you get sick, it's poisonous.
One of the few species of snakes that are actually poisonous is the tiger keelback snake. The snake species is actually venomous and poisonous! They have glands on their neck that accumulate poisonous toxins from the toads they eat, and they also have their own venom sacs as well. Thankfully, the white oak snake is neither venomous nor poisonous!
About the Author
Marina Somma is a freelance writer and animal trainer. She holds a B.A. in Psychology and a B.S. in Marine and Environmental Biology & Policy from Monmouth University. Marina has worked with a number of publications involving animal science, behavior and training, including animals.net, SmallDogsAcademy and more.
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