Pacific Gopher Snake
Pituophis catenifer catenifer
Pacific Gopher Snake
Scalation: Shannon Hiatt feels
that although ranging over a much larger area than the
San Diego gopher snake, the Pacific gopher snake's range
is bordered by those of other two gopher snake species,
and scale counts are of little value. In fact, all three
species have similar average scale counts. Catching a
snake in a specific locale is the only way to determine
the species in hand or whether it might be an intergrade
specimen. Even blotch characteristics are more accurate
in some instances, but certainly not all.
By: Shannon Hiatt
|Coloration and Description:
Pacific gopher snakes have some of the most variable colors and patterns found in gopher snakes with blotched and striped specimens as well as albino specimens found regularly in wild populations. Straw to straw-gray are the two most common ground colors. The well-defined dorsal blotches are generally dark brown to chocolate brown, although some specimens display black blotches. The smaller side blotches are often indistinct brown blotches in the normally gray lateral coloration. The blotches near the head do not fuse with adjoining blotches as in the San Diego gopher snake but are quite distinct from each other. The mid-body blotches are, however, lighter brown than those at the anterior or posterior.
The variable nature of the colors found in the wild population spills over into the specimens found in captive breeding collections: blotched and striped Pacific gopher snakes in albino, anerythristic, hypomelanistic, and snow (albino and anerythristic gene combination) are commonly available.
Head and Neck:
The Pacific gopher also has a dark line that intersects the eye; another runs from just behind the eye to the supralabials. In some specimens these supralabials are not as distinctly colored (usually with one light supralabial and one dark surpalabial in alternating fashion) as in other Gopher snakes, and the face can be quite devoid of most pattern in a few specimens. The rostral scale is convex and protrudes prominently.
The ventral scales are gray to white.
From western Oregon into
California, making this a species found in coastal areas
and into the western foothills of mountain ranges in
Oregon and California. The Great Basin gopher snake's
(Pituophis catenifer deserticola) range to the east
contacts the Pacific gopher's range in southwestern
Washington State, in northern California along the Nevada
border, and again in southern California in Santa Barbara
County. Intergrades exist in all three areas. The San
Diego gopher snake (Pituophis catenifer annectens) ranges
directly to the south in Santa Barbara County where more
Found along the coast in varied habitats that tend to
be moist and verdant, this species prefers the much drier
open fields, meadows, and farmlands around human
habitation and is rarely found in dense forests.
Mammals, the eggs and young of birds, some lizards,
and even bats. It is purported to eat rattlesnakes.
A diurnal (movement during daylight hours) species but
also active at dusk and sometimes nocturnal (movement at
night) during warm weather. Like all gopher snakes, the
Pacific gopher can produce a loud, startling hiss when
agitated or fearful. This species flattens the head and
body and vigorously rattles the tail in typical Pituophis
fashion when on the defensive.
With regular, gentle handling this species usually
becomes docile and easy to handle after some acclimation
to captivity. Since all specimens are individuals, expect
a few to be moody and unpredictable. Observe and know
your particular snake's personality quirks. The use of a
snake hook is a good idea with large gophers in order to
remove them from their cages. Often when the cage lids or
doors open, especially for those snakes accustomed to
being fed in their cages, they expect prey and react
accordingly. Many breeders or the uninitiated have
suffered the consequences of offering their hands or
fingers as that "prey." If you regularly (I
certainly do) "hook" them out of their cage
before feeding them, they will also learn that they will
be handled before being fed. This, of course, still
doesn't preclude an occasional run-in with a snake having
a bad day; it does limit that probability somewhat.
These gophers need to go through a winter brumation
period to improve breeding success. Clutches average
12-14 eggs. Eggs hatch 65 to 70 days later.
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