World Snake Day: Celebrating Memaw and snakes around the globe

July 16 marks World Snake Day, a time to celebrate snakes and the vital roles they play in the ecosystem. The Metro Parks have several different snakes, including Memaw, a gray ratsnake.

If you’ve ventured into Sharon Woods, you may have seen Memaw in the naturalist’s office. To celebrate World Snake Day, we’re sharing some fun facts about the gray ratsnake.

Gray rat snake
Memaw, a gray ratsnake at Sharon Woods.

Memaw, affectionately named for her long life span, was found near Cincinnati in the mid-1990s and has been at Metro Parks since 1996. She is believed to be at least 25-30 years old and has grown to an impressive length of six feet, seven inches.

The gray ratsnake is a nonvenomous constrictor and was previosuly known as the black rat snake.  As a predator, they eat chipmunks, mice, rats and other small rodents. Snakes are beneficial to the ecosystem, because they keep the rodent populations in check. Memaw is on a feeding schedule and eats about three mice every two weeks.

Memaw serves as an education ambassador for the Metro Parks. She helps with our outreach efforts and visits with preschoolers all the way up to senior citizens. She enjoys her exercise “walks” outside on sunny days with her naturalist caretakers. In the wild, gray ratsnakes live in varied habitats from forests to farms, climb without effort, and can also be found high up in barns and trees.  Memaw’s climbing days are over as she is getting up there in snake years.

A juvenile gray ratsnake, Baby, also resides at Sharon Woods and was born in September 2015 at another park. It has mottled coloration for camouflage, but this will fade as the snake becomes an adult. This juvenile eats two pinkie mice per week and like Memaw, visits with the community.

If you’re interested in meeting Memaw and learning more about snakes, stop by the naturalist’s office at Sharon Woods, Saturday July 22 from 2pm-5pm for our Cold-Blooded Critters program. Memaw would just love to see you.