Yunnan Rat Snake

Oreocryptophis porphyraceus pulchra

How to Care For Your Yunnan Rate Snake

Originally from Central China, the provinces of Yunnan, Sichuan and Shaanxi. They can be found in mountain forests at altitudes of between 1000 – 2600m above sea level.The like to hide under leaf litter, moss carpets and rocks and logs.  They prefer the cool humid conditions that this provides.



We recommend glass terrariums for this particular species, allowing you to keep them at the correct temperature more easily. These guys like it cool and slightly damp! They are also designed with snakes in mind so escapees are unlikely (Remember to shut the doors properly!). A wooden vivarium does offer more privacy for the snake, but as long as plenty of hides are provided the snake should feel secure.


Reptiles cannot produce their own body heat, so it is important to keep their environment within a suitable temperature range to help body systems such as digestion and immunity function correctly.

Yunnan ratsnakes require a temperature gradient of 23°C to 27°C (73°F to 80°F) during the day. This can be achieved by using a heat mat mounted on one side of the vivarium to create a warmer end of the vivarium. This must be controlled by a thermostat, as these snakes can be very sensitive to high temperatures.

It is very important to know what the temperature is, so check regularly with an accurate thermometer.


A simple 12 hour light cycle is ideal for Yunnan ratsnakes.

UV lighting is not necessary for snakes, although some specialists believe it can be beneficial.


It is important to provide your snake with fresh water every day, in a bowl that is large enough for the snake to submerge in. This may also help your snake shed its skin.

Hides and Décor

There are many different types of substrate available, but as this snake is a forest floor dweller that likes to burrow the best are probably coir fibre, orchid bark or a mix of the two. Make sure your snake cannot accidentally ingest substrates when feeding.

The snake will require quite a few hides in the vivarium so that it can feel secure. By having 2 or 3 in different areas, the snake will be able to choose the one at the best temperature. A humid hide is also recommended (such as the Exo Terra Snake Cave). These are hollow hides with a damp moss inside; snakes will often use these when they are shedding their skin.

Plastic plants are also good to use, as these look very attractive in the vivarium as well as offering privacy. Real plants however are a poor choice, as snakes will often dig them out of their pots.


Feed your snake one defrosted mouse every 1-2 weeks. The mouse should be no bigger than the largest part of the snake. Yunnan ratsnakes can eat mice their entire lives – starting off with pinkies as a hatchling and moving up in size as the animal grows. As these snakes have a narrow head, they often prefer several smaller prey items at a time as adults rather than a large mouse.

As snakes do not use energy to warm their bodies (as mammals do) they need less energy to function. Resist the urge to feed your snake more often or oversized prey as this can lead to the snake growing too fast, which can result in the head of the snake not growing at the same speed as the rest of the body. Obesity can also be a problem. If a snake is overfed they have no reason to move around their vivarium and this is detrimental to their health.

The simplest feeding technique is to place the defrosted food in the vivarium near the snake and leave it to feed. The other way is to offer the food on some tongs or tweezers to the snake; they will often strike very quickly then constrict the mouse.

Snakes sometimes refuse to feed while shedding.


Spot-clean your snake’s enclosure as necessary, removing waste as soon as possible. Clean and disinfect the water bowl on a weekly basis. Monthly or more frequently if necessary, change the substrate and completely disinfect the vivarium and decor using a safe reptile disinfectant. Rinse the enclosure thoroughly and allow to dry before replacing the cage decorations.


Snakes regularly shed their skin as they grow, it normally comes off in one piece and no assistance is required.

The first stage in the process is when the eyes go opaque (cloudy) at this point the snake will not want to feed and will hide away, it is best to leave it to do so. After a few days the eyes will clear again but it won’t shed for another 7 to 10 days.

If the snake has trouble removing the skin it is best to put the snake in a tub with some damp moss to help soften the skin and help by gently rubbing.


Although these are an unusual species of snake and are often seen as quite delicate, they can be remarkably robust if given the correct conditions.

Animal Information

Natural Habitat: Central China, the provinces of Yunnan, Sichuan and Shaanxi. They can be found in mountain forests at altitudes of between 1000 – 2600m above sea level.

Lifespan: Unknown, but should be comparable to other small ratsnake species – 10 to15 years.

Adult Size: Between 90 and 120cm/3 to 4 feet, although usually on the smaller end of this.

Temperament: Secretive and shy, they can however become very tame with regular, gentle handling.

Housing: 90cm/36″ glass or wood vivarium would be fine for an adult

Temperature Range: 23ºC to 27ºC (73 to 80ºF). Temperatures over 29ºC (84ºF) will not only cause distress, but can kill

Lighting: Low level UV (recommended but not essential) 12 hour light cycle.

Feeding: Defrosted mouse once weekly, of the appropriate size.

Substrate: Coir/coco fibre, orchid bark.

Décor: Minimum of 3 hides plus a humid hide.

Multiples? Best kept singly, except for breeding.