What do the rat snakes that seem to be abundant in the woods along the C&O Canal eat? These white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus), probably.
This one ran onto the towpath out of the forest and just stood there looking at me. It didn't mind me getting closer and closer with the camera. After I took several shots, it ran into the grassy strip on the other side of the towpath. I followed it and took some more pictures before it finally disappeared in the undergrowth. Its body, without the tail, was only about as long as the anterior half of my index finger (~50 mm).
Butch Norden of the Maryland DNR, who confirmed the identification from this photograph, wrote in his e-mail: "This is the species that frequently comes into houses in the fall. It's also said to be a major carrier of the tick that carries Lyme Disease! Frankly, Aydin, this individual looks too young to be away from its mother and I doubt that its mature enough to fend for itself...Chances are the nest had been disrupted and it was confused."
Perhaps, its immaturity explains its unusual tameness. If its mother didn't recover it, the chances are a black rat snake did.
In the closest picture of it I noticed a brownish object (arrow) under its left eye. Is it a tick?