Mandarin Rat Snake

Elaphe mandarina

Order: Sauria — Family Colubridae

Husbandry Information

Housing Requirements

  • Mandarin rat snakes can be kept in the same kind of enclosure that we would keep a Milk Snake, Kingsnake or Corn Snake. The Brandywine Zoo houses theirs in a Vision Cage.
  • This species is fossorial and montane, therefore providing opportunities for burrowing in hides or substrate is appropriate either in a dig box or across the entire enclosure with 1-3″ of substrate.
  • This species’ housing is kept close to the floor on the lowest shelf in our reptile areas to set it at the coolest temperature gradient in the room, with the lowest heat settings.
  • Overall, make sure that there is at least one humid hide spot filled with sphagnum moss and a warm spot.
  • Humidity box: plastic Tupperware large enough for snake to fit inside, lined with damp peat moss, towel, coconut fiber, cypress. Hole in lid of box so snake can crawl in and out. Simply providing a humid hide box filled with moist sphagnum moss at all times is enough for these snakes.
  • Temperature, Humidity, & Lighting:
    • Temperature:
      • Daytime: 70-80 degrees F
      • Evening: 60-75 degrees F
      • Basking: 80 degrees F
    • Humidity:
      • Daytime: Between 40-60%
      • Other: Humidity should be moderate and consistent.
    • Lighting:
      • Daytime: 12 hr light cycle
      • Other:
  • Substrate:

Diet Requirements

  • Offer 2-3 Adult Mice every other week to full grown individuals.
  • Because these snakes are kept at cooler temperatures, their digestive system is slower, and therefore should be fed smaller meals. Feed prey that is too small rather than too large.

Veterinary Concerns

  • This species is more tolerant of cold than high heat temps, so care should be taken when presenting outdoors in the summer.
  • Correct temperatures are one of the most important factors when dealing with this species and if they are kept too warm they can become sick very easily.

Notes on Enrichment & Training

  • Dig boxes with various substrates
  • Hide boxes
  • Rocks piled on warm side of enclosure for belly basking
  • Loose feathers
  • Loose hay (clean or used by mammals -freeze the latter for 48 hours)
  • Toilet paper or paper towel tubes, crumpled paper.



Colony or Breeding Management

Notes species is housed or managed socially or for breeding purposes.

Individual Identification

Dimorphism or practiced ways to individually mark species (such as those in colonies, like giant millipedes).

Programmatic Information


hot water bottle

Temperature Guidelines

  • Brandywine Zoo: During cool weather (under 65°F), supplemental heat is provided with a hot water bottle set to one side of the cooler. Wrap bottle with newspaper for lizards or snakes traveling with the bottle loose, to make cleanups easier in the case of defecation while traveling.



  • Brandywine Zoo: reptiles travel in a Coleman style coolers that have been amended with extra ventilation holes on the lid (with a wood-burning tool). Small and medium sized snakes travel inside an inside-out, knotted pillowcase. Large snakes travel loose in the cooler that is also bungeed shut. For lizards, the cooler is lined with newspaper.
  • lg cooler sm cooler cooler

Tips on Presentation

  • This snake can be presented in hand.
  • Provide a box with loose substrate (even shredded paper) to demonstrate burrowing tendencies.

Touching Techniques

Tips on Handling

  • This species is shy and reclusive, and therefore not great for displays.
  • When handling, they can be active, but will settle with desensitization and age.


Potential Messaging

  • Due to people’s lack of knowledge and fear of snakes, rat snakes continue to be the victim of human persecution.
  • Snakes are an important link in the food chain. They provide food for many bird and mammal species that prey on them. The main diet of most snakes is rodents. Therefore, snakes provide a very valuable service – pest control. Most snakes are non-venomous and will avoid humans if they can. Venomous snakes want to use their venom to kill small prey animals or to defend themselves; since humans are too big to be considered prey by most snakes, the best way to avoid a bite is not to make the snake feel threatened. Ask guests to avoid any snakes they may see in the wild and appreciate them from a distance.

Acquisition Information


Comments from the Rating System

Natural History Information

Range and Habitat

  • Can be found at elevations of 2000-2500, and even as high as 3000 meters in Tibet.
  • They come from rocky forests and farmlands within China, Taiwan, Burma, and Vietnam where the climate is fairly cool and humid.
  • Typical temperatures range between 68-77੦ F

Physical Description

  • Adults reach sizes of around 100 – 120cm
  • The snake’s upper head is yellow and the labials are white, except for three broad, black cross-bands.
  • Its upper body and tail are purplish-gray or even reddish, with a series of conspicuous, yellow-margined, yellow-centered, black saddles separated from one another by length of one to two scales.
  • They stay slender throughout their lives.
  • There is no obvious secondary sexual characteristic that allow for instant determination of sex, as sizes of individuals can vary greatly and there is no conspicuous color.

Life Cycle

  • Oviparous, egg-laying
  • They breed in the spring, 3-12 eggs requiring 48-55 days of incubation.


  • Crepuscular, active at dawn and dusk
  • Mandarin rat snakes are comfortable in cooler temperatures than most other colubrids.

Defense Mechanisms

  • Shy, secretive snakes.
  • During the day, Mandarin rat snakes like to hide in dark places like rodent burrows. This is also typically where they hunt.
  • They may rattle their tail when agitated or excited.

Threats and Conservation Status

Status– Not Evaluated

  • Use & Trade: Exports of this species from China historically have been difficult to keep alive. This species has very specific requirements for housing, including low temperatures, high humidity, and substrate for burrowing. Due to this, unfortunately many wild caught exports have perished at the hands of inept caretakers.
  • Threats: Their habitat is slowly being reduced due to land development, human encroachment and the cutting of trees. However, at this time, it is assumed they continue to maintain a healthy population (their population has not been thoroughly evaluated).
  • Predators: Larger reptiles and carnivorous mammals and birds.

Did you know…

  • Their bright colors and diamond pattern may look dangerous, but they’re nonvenomous and actually very secretive, active only around dawn or dusk in heavily-covered areas.
  • Mandarin rat snakes are uncommon and not usually kept as pets.
  • Rat snakes are very useful around barns and in farming communities because they help control pest populations.




Any Documents to attach, species spotlights, etc.

Contributors and Citations

  • Brandywine Zoo


Ratsnake Foundation, “Ratsnakes,” Ratsnake Foundation, 2014. [Online]. Available: [Accessed October 2014].
Dennison, Rolf, “Mandarin Rat Snake– (Euprepiophis mandarinus),” Ultimate Exotics, 2018. [Online] Available:
Detroit Zoo, “Mandarin Rat Snake,” Detroit Zoo, 2014. [Online]. Available: [Accessed October 2014].
Reptiles Magazine, “Mandarin Rat Snake,” Reptiles Magazine, 2014. [Online]. Available: [Accessed October 2014].
Wikipedia, “Mandarin Rat Snake,” Wikipedia, 2014. [Online]. Available: [Accessed October 2014].
Ratsnake Foundation, “Euprepiophis Mandarinus,” Ratsnake Foundation, 2014. [Online]. Available: [Accessed October 2014].
ZooLogic, “Mandarin Rat Snake,” Zoo Logic, 2014. [Online]. Available: [Accessed October 2014].