Gopher Snake

Pituophis catenifer

Pituophis catenifer photo © by Mike Plagens

Photo taken with the assistance of John Gunn on the road to Spur Cross Conservation Area, Cave Creek, Arizona, April 2009. Even with a conservation area nearby snakes wander, end up on the road and often are crushed to death. This snake looks limp because it had been mortally injured by a vehicle. The speed limit on the road is slow so it is hard to believe the driver could not have avoided this destruction.

Among the largest of Sonoran Desert snakes, Gopher Snakes can exceed 2 meters in length in prime habitat. The pattern is a series of reddish brown patches on usually a straw-colored background. Considerable color variations are possible. A threatened Gopher Snake might be mistaken for a rattlesnake when it hisses and raises its head, but of course, it lacks a rattle and lacks poison fangs.

As the name implies, gopher snakes prey on a variety of mammals using powerful constriction to kill. In parts of North America this animal is known as the Bull Snake. It is widespread in the Arizona Sonoran Desert, but is also common in the higher elevation habitats including oak and pine woodlands. Common across much of temperate North America.

Colubridae -- Typical Snake Family

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More Information:

Sonoran Desert Field Guide
Sonoran Desert Places
Sonoran Desert Naturalist Home Page


Copyright Michael J. Plagens, page created 15 May 2009.