Pituophis catenifer annectens - San Diego Gopher Snake
Considered harmless to humans.
Adults of this species can be 2.5 - 7 feet long (76 - 213 cm.) San Diego Gophersnakes are most commonly 4 - 5 ft. long (122 -152 cm.) Hatchlings of P. catenifer are fairly long, generally around 15 inches in length (38 cm.)
A large snake with heavily keeled scales, a narrow head that is slightly wider than the neck, and a protruding rostral scale on the tip of the snout that is bluntly rounded. Ground color is tan, light brown or yellowish, with large brown or blackish rounded blotches along the back and smaller markings on the sides. The dorsal blotches can fuse together producing a very dark color. The underside is cream to yellow with dark spots. The back of the neck is often a dull orange.
Key to California gopher snake subspecies.
Active in the daytime, and at night in hot weather, and especially at dusk and dawn. One of the most commonly seen snakes on roads and trails, especially in the spring when males are actively seeking a mate, and in the fall when hatchlings emerge. A good burrower, climber, and swimmer. A powerful constrictor; kills prey by suffocating them in body coils or by pressing the animal against the walls of their underground burrows.
When threatened, a gophersnake willl elevate and inflate its body, flatten its head into a triangular shape, hiss loudly, and quickly shake its tail back and forth to make a buzzing sound which may be a mimic of a rattlesnake rattle.
You can listen to a recording of a gophersnake hissing here, and watch short movies of a gopher snake hissing and striking here, and shaking its tail here.
Small mammals, especially pocket gophers, birds and their eggs, and occasionally lizards and insects.
Like other subspecies, eggs are probably laid June - August, hatching in 2 to 2.5 months.
This subspecies,Pituophis catenifer annectens - San Diego Gopher Snake, occurs in southern California south of the range of P. c. catenifer from the south coast in Santa Barbara County south on the inland side of the mountain ranges to Baja California. It also occurs on Catalina Island. Sympatric with P. c. affinis in a narrow range, but no intergrades have been found. Apparently intergrades with P. c. catenifer, and P. c. deserticola.
The species Pituophis catenifer - Gopher Snake, occurs from the southern edge of Canada in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan, south to the tip of Baja California and northern mainland Mexico, and east to Indiana and east Texas, excluding most of Arkansas, Minnesota, and North Dakota, and much of Illinois and Wisconsin. It is also found in the Channel Islands and on several islands off the west coast of Baja California.
Found in a variety of habitats - grassland, coastal sage scrub, agricultural lands, riparian areas, woodlands, and desert, from sea level to the mountains. Especially common in coastal areas.
8 subspecies of Pituophis catenifer are recognized - 2 occur in Baja California, and 6 occur in the United States. It has been proposed that the snakes from Baja California are a new species. 5 of these 8 subspecies occur in California, with one endemic, and one that only occurs in California and Baja California.
Gophersnakes are related to Ratsnakes and Kingsnakes, and they have been known to interbreed with these species.
Conservation Issues (Conservation Status)
A very common snake, but often mistaken for the similar rattlesnake and killed unnecessarily. Frequently killed by traffic when crossing roads.