229271 Full
Large Snake of south-central Pennsylvania and 
northern Maryland.

Variant names: Big snake, Boss snake, The 
Devil, Devil snake, Heap big snake, Log snake.

Physical description: Length, 15–20 feet. Diameter, 
8–10 inches, or as thick as a stovepipe. 
Black with some gray, dark gray with yellow 
markings, or dirty tan with variegated markings. 
Huge mouth.

Behavior: Sometimes blocks rural roads. Coils 
its tail around a tree branch and swings its head 
to and fro. Said to be able to move with its head 
and neck erect. Hisses or groans. Eats roosters 
and cats.

Habitat: Forests, mountains, rocky areas.

Distribution: Southern Pennsylvania; northern 

Significant sightings: Emanuel Bushman’s 
brother and six others saw a Devil snake on Big 
Round Top, south of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, 
in April 1833. Other reports place the snake in 
Devil’s Den. It was probably gone by the Battle 
of Gettysburg in July 1863, but the name 
“Devil’s Den” may have originated with this 
creature rather than Confederate sniper fire during 
the battle.

A black snake 25–35 feet long was seen in the 
vicinity of Allentown, Pennsylvania, in 1870 
and 1871, catching and eating roosters and cats.

A 15-foot “anaconda” was reported around 
Hall’s Springs, Maryland, in the summer of 
1875. Its track was measured at 11.5–15 inches 
wide. It swallowed pigs, a turkey, and a chicken 
in a trap set for it, but it eluded capture.

Present status: Possibly the same as other Giant 
North American Snakes reported elsewhere.

Possible explanations: 
(1) The Black rat snake (Elaphe obsoleta 
obsoleta) is the largest snake in Pennsylvania, 
growing to 7 feet in length. It is solid black 
with faint traces of a spotted pattern. 
(2) The Northern black racer (Coluber 
constrictor constrictor) is the second-largest 
snake in Pennsylvania but does not grow 
much longer than 6 feet and is more slender 
than the rat snake. It is bluish-gray to black 
on top, with some white on the chin. 
(3) The Bullsnake (Pituophis catenifer sayi ), 
a yellowish colubrid snake with dark 
blotches, grows to over 8 feet long but is 
only found in isolated pockets in the East. 
(4) A large, unknown subspecies of 
bullsnake, suggested by Chad Arment.

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