Pituophis catenifer catenifer, one of six subspecies of gopher snakes, is the largest snake found in California (3). Up to 279 cm in length, Pacific gopher snakes have a relatively small head and a narrow snout (2). While coloration varies across region, patterns remain generally the same; with a tan body and dark blotches (3). Pacific gopher snakes are a habitat generalist; found in deserts, prairies, brushland, woodlands, conifer forest, and farmland (3). They primarily feed on small rodents but also have a diverse diet of lizards, eggs, and insects (3). Pacific gopher snakes’ appearance and behavior when threatened are similar to a rattlesnakes’; which include tail vibrations, loud hissing, and even lunging at the threat (1)(2). Unlike rattlesnakes, a Pacific gopher snakes’ bite is not venomous (1).
(1) Hallock, L.A. and McAllister, K.R. 2005. Gopher Snake. Washington Herp Atlas.
(2) Illinois Natural History Survey. (n.d.). Pituophis catenifer (Blainville, 1835) -- Gophersnake.
(3) Stebbins, R. C. & McGinnis, S. M. (2012). Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of California (Revised ed.). Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
(Photograph) © Alice Abela