Pituophis catenifer deserticola - Great Basin Gopher Snake
Considered harmless to humans.
Adults of this species can be 2.5 - 7 feet long (76 - 213 cm.) Great Basin Gophersnakes have been recorded up to 6 feet (183 cm) and are most commonly under 5 ft. long (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 slightly rounded. Ground color is cream to yellowish, with large quadrangular brown, blackish, and reddish brown blotches along the back and smaller markings on the sides. Often the blotches form a dark band on the sides of the neck. The back of the neck is pale in the southern part of the range, but mottled with dark coloring in the northern part of the range. This subspecies typically has black or dark blotches on the neck and the tail and lighter brown or reddish blotches inbetween. The underside is pale with some dark markings.
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.
As with other subspecies, eggs are probably laid June - August, hatching in 2 to 2.5 months.
This subspecies, Pituophis catenifer deserticola - Great Basin Gopher Snake, occurs in southeastern California north of approximately the Riverside county line through the Mojave Desert and east of the Sierra Nevada mountains. It ranges farther north through Nevada, eastern Oregon and Washington into British Columbia, and is also found in parts of Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, and new Mexico.
There is a wide range of integration with P. c. catenifer in northeastern California and eastern Oregon. Also intergrades with P. c. annectans in the south.
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.