Large Snake of south-central Pennsylvania and
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.
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
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
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.
(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.