Gopher Snake


ORDER: Squamata

FAMILY: Colubridae

GENUS: Pituophis

SPECIES: melanoleucus catenifer

DESCRIPTION:
Skin is patterned in golds and reddish-browns. Adults reach four and a half feet.

GEOGRAPHICAL RANGE AND HABITAT:
Southern British Columbia and throughout much of the western portion of the United States. Found in open woodlands, plains, agricultural areas - everywhere except high mountains.

DIET:
Mice, rabbits, ground squirrels, pocket gophers. Kills by constriction.

LIFE CYCLE/SOCIAL STRUCTURE:
Usually active by day, but nocturnal in hot weather. Mates in the spring. Up to 24 eggs are laid in a burrow or beneath a rock or log. Eggs hatch in 9-11 weeks.

SPECIAL ADAPTATIONS:
The scale on the tip of the snake's snout is enlarged upward on the head; this modification is probably because of its partly burrowing habits. They burrow underground for shelter or take over a mammal or tortoise burrow.

INTERPRETIVE INFORMATION:
The gopher snake is a close relative of the pine and bull snakes, and all are of great benefit to farmers because of the number of rodents they eat. If the snake is threatened and cannot get away, it will face the threat with a flattened head, coil in s-loops, and vibrate its tail. It also inhales a large amount of air so that it looks larger and will release this air in loud hissing noises accompanied by strikes.

OUR ANIMALS:
Our snake was acquired in 2008. It had been wild caught and kept as a pet. It is used in our Education and Zoomobile programs and is not viewable by the public.

STATUS IN WILD:
Not considered endangered.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

  1. Mehrtens, John. 1987. Living Snakes of the World, Sterling Publishing Co., Inc, New York, NY, pp. 108, 112.
  2. Stidworthy, John. 1971. Snakes of the World, Glosset and Dunlap, New York, NY, p. 75.
  3. Whitfield, Philip, ed. 1984. MacMillan Illustrated Animal Encyclopedia, MacMillan Publishing Company, New York, p. 452. CL:2/93; 7/08

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