A primarily nocturnal species (2) (4) (5) (6) (8), particularly during periods of warm weather, the Great Plains rat snake is rather secretive (2) (6) and is seldom seen (4). During the day, it tends to take shelter under rocks and logs or within crevices, caves and rodent burrows (2) (4) (6). As well as being a terrestrial species, the Great Plains rat snake is known to be arboreal (1), and is reported to be an excellent climber (8).
A very secretive species, the Great Plains rat snake may vibrate its tail when alarmed, much like a rattlesnake (2) (4). It may also bite (2) (4), although its bite is harmless (4), and it will usually void faeces and the contents of its anal scent glands when caught (2).
The Great Plains rat snake typically feeds on small mammals, such as rodents and bats, as well as on lizards, frogs and small birds and their eggs (2) (4) (5) (8), which it hunts at night (8). As in other snakes, this species uses special organs in its mouth and on its tongue to detect odours and track its prey (4). The Great Plains rat snake is non-venomous (2) (4), and kills its prey by constriction (2).
The Great Plains rat snake is reported to be active from late March to late September in parts of its range (4). Breeding in this species is thought to occur soon after the snake emerges from its overwintering areas (4), typically between May and July (2). An egg-laying species (2), the Great Plains rat snake is thought to only produce one clutch per breeding season (4). The eggs, which are white with smooth shells (2), are usually laid between late June and early July (4). Hatching takes place about eight to ten weeks later (2), typically in September (4). The female Great Plains rat snake lays a clutch of 3 (2) (4) to 37 eggs, although around 16 is more common (2).
Newly hatched young range in length from about 25 to 38 centimetres. Interestingly, female Great Plains rat snakes do not usually start breeding until they are three years old (2).