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Pituophis catenifer catenifer - Pacific Gopher Snake

Pituophis catenifer catenifer - Pacific Gopher Snake - snake species | gveli | გველი

Pituophis catenifer catenifer - Pacific Gopher Snake

Nonvenomous

Considered harmless to humans.

Size

Adults of this species can be 2.5 - 7 feet long (76 - 213 cm) but most of this subspecies are from 4.5 - 5 ft. (137 - 152 cm.) Hatchlings are fairly long, and may exceed 20 inches in length (51 cm.)

Appearance

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 straw or tan, with large square dark chocolate blotches or saddles along the back and smaller gray spots on the sides. The back of the neck is dark brown. The underside is cream to yellowish with dark spots. Often there is a reddish color on the top, especially near the tail.

A striped morph is also found, often in Solano and Yolo Counties around the Davis Area.

Key to California gopher snake subspecies.

Behavior

Active in the daytime, and at night in hot weather. 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.

Diet

Small mammals, especially pocket gophers, birds and their eggs, and occasionally lizards and insects.

Reproduction

Eggs are laid June - August and hatch in 2 to 2.5 months.

Range

This subspecies, Pituophis catenifer catenifer - Pacific Gopher Snake, occurs north of roughly Santa Barbara County west of the Sierra Nevada mountains into Oregon. It is absent from the far northeast corner of California.

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.

Habitat

Found in a variety of habitats -open grassland and brushland, mixed woodlands, coniferous forest, agricultural farmland, chaparral, marshes, around suburban homes and garden sheds, and and riparian zones, from lowlands to the mountains.

Taxonomic Notes

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.

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