The gopher snake, aka bull snake (named for it’s attitude), is a hefty, non-venomous, colubrid snake that makes its home from Canada all the way down to Mexico. Gopher snakes live on prairies, in marshes, agricultural lands, deserts, conifer forests, and semi-arid areas. Due to their resemblance to and mimicked behavior of rattlesnakes, they are often mistaken for such and killed. These snakes are a bit stand-offish but great mousers. If you see one, give it space and let it do it’s job of eradicating pest rodents from your residence.
First the Stats…
Scientific name: Pituophis catenifer
Weight: Up to 4 lbs.
Length: Up to 7 feet
Lifespan: Up to 15 years
Now on to the Facts!
1.) Gopher snakes are diurnal (active during the day). However, they can be seen displaying a crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk) habit during the hotter parts of the summer.
2.) These snakes are typically terrestrial (spend most or all of their time on the ground), but they have no problem climbing or even swimming.
3.) They prey on rodents like rats, mice, and rabbits. Younger snakes will also eat amphibians and reptiles.
5.) Even though they look surprisingly like a rattle snake, they are not venomous and instead choose to constrict their prey. They have one heck of a squeeze too. I had a 7.5 foot bull snake that could squeeze the daylights out of my arm!
But wait, there’s more on the gopher snake!
6.) Like most nonvenomous snakes in the U.S. bull snakes have rounded pupils and not vertical, cat-like pupils common of many vipers.
7.) Gopher snakes brumate (hibernation for reptiles) during colder winter months.
Did you know…?
Gopher snakes can swell up their body, curl themselves into the classic “S” pose of a viper, and even flatten their heads to resemble a rattlesnake – as a defensive mechanism. They will also vibrate their tails, mimicking a rattlesnake’s rattle. This does such a good job at fooling would-be predators that they are often killed by people thinking they actually are rattlesnakes!
8.) Males undergo combats during the mating season, where they stay on the ground, with their bodies intertwined from head to tail; while striking at each other. The winner gets the girl.
9.) Mating season takes place in spring with eggs being laid from April – June.
10.) Bull snakes are oviparous (lay eggs). Females lay between 2 – 20 eggs.