Massive Snake Hanging from Tree in Pennsylvania Park Sparks Public Alert

Wildlife authorities in Pennsylvania issued an alert on Thursday after a species of snake was spotted at Pittsburgh's Frick Park.

Pittsburgh Park Rangers and experts from the city's Animal Care & Control conducted a search of the park after a "large snake" was pictured on a tree. Concerns were raised after the witness told officials the reptile "did not appear to be a native species."

An alert was issued by the Pittsburgh Public Safety Twitter account, which posted an image of the then-unidentified snake on the tree's branches.

In a statement posted to its website, Pittsburgh Public Safety said: "It is not yet verified as to what type of snake it is. Public Safety is warning the public, if you come across a large snake you are not familiar with, stay away and immediately notify police."

Amid debate on social media—where users shared the image of the snake hundreds of times and attempted to identify its exact species—authorities later confirmed there was no reason to be alarmed. It was identified as being a native black rat snake.

It said: "We thank... specialists at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium for identifying the Frick Park snake as a black rat snake. While not commonly seen in the park, this harmless species of snake is native to the area and very beneficial to the environment. We thank the public for their interest and for helping us identify this park visitor."

Final Update: The experts have spoken!
We thank the reptile specialists at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium for identifying the Frick Park snake as a Black Rat Snake.
We thank the public for their interest and for helping us identify this park visitor. https://t.co/WeAIBQX08L

— Pgh Public Safety (@PghPublicSafety) April 8, 2021

According to the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commision, there are 18 non-venomous and three venomous species of snake documented as being found in the state.

The venomous species of snakes in Pennsylvania are the Eastern Copperhead, Timber Rattlesnake and Eastern Massasauga. The non-venomous species include the Northern Black Racer, Eastern Ratsnake, Smooth Greensnake and the Eastern Milksnake.

A profile on the black rat snake says it is the largest of the 21 species known to live in the state and was described as a "powerful constrictor," which means that it does not kill using toxins—but by coiling around its prey, causing death by suffocation.

The profile says the species "is an excellent climber and uses small angles protruding from the belly scales to grip the rough bark of a tree."

"This ability allows easy access to the hollow cavity of an old tree and possible relief from unbearably hot summer temperatures. As winter approaches, the black rat snake seeks shelter underground, sometimes denning with rattlesnakes or copperheads."
The snakes often climb trees to feed on small birds or their eggs, experts say.

Stock photo - Black Rat Snake
Stock image: Black Rat Snake pictured in woodland. Wildlife authorities in Pennsylvania issued an alert on Thursday after one was spotted lurking inside Pittsburgh’s Frick Park. iStock