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Gopher Snake

Pituophis melanoleucus


Colubridae, the Colubrid family

Conservation Status:

IUCN Least Concern.


Most of temperate and subtropical North America.


Widely varied habitats.


The combat “dance” between males, which may last up to an hour, has been mistaken for a courtship display between males and females. Head rearing, hissing, intertwining and slithering along the ground with upraised heads, they focus on their combat, oblivious to everything.

They look like rattlesnakes, yellow to cream with black, brown or reddish-brown blotches along the back to the tip of the tail, slender bodies, pointed heads and pointed tails. They are the largest snake in California.

Their diet consists of mice, rats, gophers, ground squirrels, young rabbits, bird eggs and nestling birds. In the desert, they are nocturnal during the hottest months and diurnal during mild seasons. They are good climbers and have been found high in trees. They may also go into rodent burrows to hunt. They kill by constriction, swallowing their prey whole and are among our most valuable reptiles, feeding on rodents that damage crops.
They are preyed on by hawks, coyotes, snakes and owls.

They do not give birth to live young but lay from 3-12 elongated leathery-shelled eggs which hatch in 65-70 days, with no parental care.

They flatten their heads to look like a rattlesnake’s and also vibrate their tails which, in leaves or grass, produces a rattle-like sound. They can also hiss more loudly than any other U.S. snake.

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