Japanese rat snake

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Japanese rat snake
Elaphe climacophora -Kyoto, Japan-8.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Genus: Elaphe
Species: E. climacophora
Binomial name
Elaphe climacophora
(Boie, 1826)
Japanese rat snake

The Japanese rat snake (Elaphe climacophora) is a medium-sized snake found throughout the Japanese archipelago (except the far South West). In Japanese it is known as the aodaishō or "blue general". It is a non-venomous snake, and a member of the colubrid family. It is hunted by eagles and raccoon dogs.

The snakes hibernate for three to four months, mate in spring and lay 7–20 eggs in early summer.


Elaphe climacophora by Kawahara Keiga, 1823-1829

Adults reach a length of between one and two meters and a girth of about five centimeters. E. climacophora is the largest Japanese snake outside of Okinawa. The color is variable, from pale yellow-green to dark blue-green.

Juveniles have a pattern of brown stripes, which may be an example of mimesis to the venomous mamushi. An albino form is known, especially around Iwakuni, where they are known and revered as "Iwakuni white snakes". The albino population was protected in 1924 as a "National Monument". In Japan, an aibino form has been worshiped as guardian deities of mountains and rivers or messengers of deities.


Japanese rat snakes eat a variety of small animals: rodents, frogs or lizards. They are good at climbing and often raid bird nests. They were favoured by farmers as effective rat control, though unpopular with chicken rearers.


In the German reptile zoo Exotarium Oberhof Elaphe climacophora mated with Elaphe schrenckii to produce fertile hybrids. Offspring look very much like Elaphe taeniura.