Thank you for sending me a photo. This was a wonderful teaching moment for your children. I was glad you taught them not to poke it or touch it which is the cause of 95% of snake bites. We want children and adults to keep their natural curiosity while learning to protect and enjoy the living things around them. This snake is still quite young which often makes the identification more difficult. The markings on the body of the snake are considered blotches and often have lines or stripes running horizontally along the length of the body which connect the blotches. Because of the patterns on the snake, many people mistake it as a venomous snake.
Remember how important snakes are to the health of our overall ecosystems. We would be overrun with rats and other rodents if we killed every snake we saw. I believe the snake your children saw is a young, non-venomous, beneficial rat snake, possibly an Eastern rat snake or a Gulf hammock rat snake. Rat snakes can be over a foot long when emerging from the egg. But, like all living things, they eventually get larger. The juvenile Eastern rat snake measures approximately 3 feet long and adults average between 5.5 to 6 feet long.
Their common habitat in Florida is forest areas, including pine and hardwood forests, scrubs, edges of swamps and marshes, agricultural areas, barns, abandoned buildings, and suburban neighborhoods. Rat snakes have been the friend of many farmers because they are excellent predators of rodents feeding on stored grain. However, be sure to keep your chickens and young chicks out of harm’s way as they will be a tempting snack for the snake too! Rat snakes are also known to be an excellent climber finding its way up in barn lofts and chicken coops.
A typical diet for rat snakes consists of snails, insects, frogs, lizards, snakes (often venomous snakes), birds and bird eggs, bats, shrews, moles, mice, squirrels, and rabbits. Rat snakes are often kept as pets (please purchase from a reputable pet store) because they are very docile, and they have such beautiful patterns and colors.