Manchurian Black Water Snake

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Manchurian black water snake
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Subfamily: Colubrinae
Genus: Elaphe
Species: E. schrenckii
Binomial name
Elaphe schrenckii
(Strauch, 1873)
  • Elaphis Schrencki - Strauch 1873
  • Coluber schrenkii - Boulenger 1894: 48
  • Coluber virgatus - Boettger 1898: 51 (fide Stejneger 1907)
  • Elaphe schrenckii - Stejneger 1907: 313
  • Elaphe schrenckii schrenckii - Pope 1935
  • Elaphe schrenckii - Schulz 1996: 235
  • Elaphe schrenckii - Utiger et al. 2002
  • Elaphe schrenki - Burbrink & Lawson 2007 (in error)
  • Elaphe shrenki - Burbrink & Lawson 2007 (in error)

Elaphe schrenkii is a nonvenomous Colubridae (Colubrid) species found around North East Asia (China, Korea, Russia, Mongolia.). This a relatively large colubrid, but due to its lack of colour and beauty and despite its gentle temperament is not a very popular snake for keepers. It is also known as the Amur rat snake, Siberian rat snake or more commonly the Russian rat snake. As the name suggest they are excellent swimmers and they are also excellent climbers. The name comes from Manchuria the region of Asia in which the snake is found. Although very similar Elaphe Schrenckii is not to be confused with Korean rat snake, Elaphe anomala which was once thought to be a sub species and came under the synonym Elaphe schrenkii anomala.


Adult Size: 140–180 cm. Often named the Russian rat snake although this is misleading as only a small portion of the snakes range is in Russia. The northern, darker, most common variety is known to be more fearless, inquisitive & personable than its southern cousin, which is somewhat more nervous & shy. Manchurian black water snakes are among the largest and most robust of all the rat snake species and are believed to be crepuscular (active dusk & dawn) but many are active both day and night. Whilst they are a calm species, they are quite active, semi arboreal and extremely nosy which makes them a great species to interact with and observe. They are constrictors who belong to the Colubridae (colubrid) family and are sometimes referred to as Manchurian rat snake and Amur ratsnake. Often the species name is misspelt as Elaphe shrencki.

Natural History[edit]

As the name suggests, this species inhabits fairly moist biotopes. Forest clearings, scrub, farmland, hiding amongst cavities in trees, piles of stone or wood, and when threatened can flee up a tree or into the water. E. schrencki has been noted up to 6m high in trees. This species lives in regions with altitudes up to 2000m. In the wild the diet of Elaphe schrenckii includes rats, mice, birds (including their eggs) and bats.


Russian rat snakes have often been called the friendliest of large snakes. They make a great pet for snake keepers who have tried their hand at corn snakes and kingsnakes and are looking for something a little different the snake possess intelligence and will enjoy human interaction. Although Manchurians have a shorter activity period than most other snakes, they make up for it by exhibiting behaviour and interactivity that makes them a favourite with those who keep them. Known to be docile & inquisitive.


The natural distribution range of Russian rat snake is located in the Far East. The species occurs in Russia (eastern Siberia and Primorskiy region), eastern Mongolia, northern and central China (provinces of Jehol, Hopei, and Shansi), and Korea (Szczerbak 2003; Reptile Database). Although the habitat of the Russian rat snake has not been extensively examined, some aspects of habitat preferences are documented. The main habitat is formed by (taiga) forests, forest edges, and bushy and scrubby areas. The species also occurs along rivers (Terbish et al. 2006) and in the vicinity of urban areas (Szczerbak 2003). Most of its natural habitat is located within mountainous areas (Terbish et al. 2006; Reptile Database), where the species lives at elevations up to 900 metres (Shannon 1956; Terbish et al. 2006). It is found in the Amur River basin; in eastern Mongolia, south-eastern Siberia, northern Manchuria, Korea, China and a colony of escaped snakes in Northern Netherlands. It is the largest indigenous snake on the Korean Peninsula and is typically 140–180 cm long. Type locality: Russia: Hinggan Mountains, Strauch, 1873

Native To: China, Korea, Russia, Mongolia.


It is one variety of rat snake, feeding primarily on small mammals, birds & bird eggs. It is often found in wetlands, but also found in a wide variety of mainly moist environments such as scrub land, farmland, river banks, swamp land, gardens, stones, log piles, forests and up in trees. The Manchurian Black Water Snake is a very good climber, found as high up in trees as 6 meters. Feeding on Rodents, Birds and their Eggs, Bats.

Scale Count[edit]

Ventrals: 200-236 Subcaudals: 55-78 Dorsals: 21-23

Breeding in Captivity[edit]

Brumation: 47-54 °F (8-12 °C) for 3–4 months Reproduction: Clutches range from 6-30 eggs in size, and are usually deposited in June-July. As an adaptation to the short summers in their native range, female Russian Ratsnakes retain their eggs for a time, and deposit them in a well-advanced state. At an incubation temperature of 82 F, they typically hatch within 40 days (35 - 60 day). (Frank Indiviglio)

Known mutations: melanistic, striped, anerythristic. The first melanistic Russian ratsnakes go back approximately 25 years, these were in the collection of a Polish Zoo in Płock. A breeder from Warsaw acquired some of their stock some 20 years back and has been working with them ever since. He bred his animals to normal looking E. schrencki making heterozygote animals. Some of these were sold, the guy who brought them bred them together producing some melanistic in the clutch, proving it to be a simple recessive genetic trait. It is not known if the striped trait is genetic, but several specimens exhibiting various amounts of striping have been known.

Conservation Status[edit]

IUCN Red List: Not Listed China Species Red List: Vulnerable VU A2a Manchurian black water snakes are a officially a protected species in Russia and South Korea.


External links[edit]