Common Name:
Durango Mountain Gopher
Mexican Bullsnake
Mexican Pine Snake
Durango Mountain pine snake
El Cincuate (in Mexico)

Scientific Name:
Pituophis deppei deppei
(Dumeril and Bibron, 1864)

Size:
    Hatch: 9-14 inches average
    Adult: Possibly over seven feet in length but, as noted by the Barlett's, 5.5 feet is probably the average size for this species (Snakes 91). An article entitled, "Serpientes Inofensivas de Jalisco," gives an average size of 1.6 meters (5.25 feet) for deppei.

Scalation: (all figures below based on Stull’s study)

Dorsal rows (mid-body): 27 on average with the maximum number 27 to 31 (27). Scale formula most often 27-29-21 [scale rows vary from 26-27-21 to 29-31-21 in males; 27-27-21 to 29-31-22 in females] (31-32).

Ventrals: 211 to 233 [average 221.8] (27).

Caudals: 52 to 79 [average 61.5] (27).

Supralabials: 7 to 9 (average 8.1) with the fourth and fifth usually, or third and fourth or fifth and sixth occasionally entering the eye. This is an important diagnostic feature and, coupled with the number of interspaces between blotches, can often be the only way to differentiate deppei deppei from deppei jani. With deppei deppei they are “separated by interspaces generally each fewer than four scales in length” (27).

Prefrontals: Two (27)

Anal Plate: Single, undivided.

Range: Alan Kardon states that the subspecies deppei deppei ranges from "Chihuahua to Durango, Jalisco, Hidalgo, Colima, Veracruz, Mexico state, etc. in Sierra Madres at elevations ranging from 5,000 ft. to 8,000 ft." (forum post, August 27, 1997).

R.D. and Patricia P. Bartlett give the range for P. d. deppei as "the Sierran elevations in central northern Mexico." (Snakes 91).

It is interesting to note that Ditmars placed deppei deppei in parts of Texas in the 1930s, and that Stull had examined specimens from two different collections indicating deppei was found in Real de Pinos, California, and San Marcos, Hays County, Texas (33).

Text by Shannon Hiatt

Coloration and Description:

General: A generally more slender Pituophis, the head is more angular than other Pituophis even though it, too, is blunted. Stull indicates the deppei have "quadrangular spots throughout the entire length of the dorsum . . . . [with] the spots vary[ing] in number from 43 to 59 on body and tail . . . .occasionally [the blotches are] saddle-shaped in the midregion. These [blotches] are each 3 to 8 scales in length and 10 to 13 scales wide and are separated by light interspaces rarely 4, and generally less than 4, scales in length" (27).

Stull also suggests there are some differences in blotch counts on body and tail between males and females: "The total number of spots on body and tail averages 50.4 in males and 47.8 in females" (32).

W.P. Mara indicates, "With P. d. deppei you have a basically tan-colored snake with very dark, fairly well-defined blotches ranging in color from dark brown to black. There is also some dark spotting on the laterum as well, but not much. The head is slightly lighter in color than the dorsum, and the chin is buff color (18)."

John Cherry offers a description of the deppei: "The Mexican Gopher (P. d. deppei) [is a] highly variable snake. . . they are a normally light tan animal with black/brown blotches as a general rule, but there is a race from around Durango, Mexico, that exhibits pastel green, orange, and yellow ground color with jet black blotches. There is also a stark white ground color with black blotches and a blue ground color with black blotches from that locale" (forum post, December 15, 1999). This wide color variation is one of the main reasons this species has become increasingly more popular with herpetoculturists who collect Pits [sic].

The Bartlett's describe the deppei as ". . . the more prominently blotched of the two races, having rather precisely outlined charcoal to chocolate dorsal blotches against a ground color which may vary from gold to orange" (Snakes 91).

The "Serpientes Inofensivas de Jalisco," article offers that deppei usually has a ground color of yellow in the Mexican state of Jalisco.

Head and Neck: According to Stull, "The head and throat are usually pale, with dark lines between the supralabials and between the infralabials, and sometimes with small brownish spots appearing as far anterior as the frontal and supraoculars" (29)

Ventral: Mara also states, "The belly can also be buff, sometimes tending more toward an immaculate white (18)."

Stull gives this description: "The belly is a yellowish white and lacks spots anteriorly, or has small dark spots scattered irregularly at the sides of the ventral scutes. Posteriorly and under the tail there is a series of small dark spots on either side, which are 1 or 2 scutes each in length and are separated by 1 to 4 scutes" (29).

Habitat: A Mexican article explains the etymology of the name given deppei by the Mexicans of Jalisco. El Cincuate (from the Nahuatl cin "corn" and coatl "serpent") roughly translates as serpent of the corn or corn snake. Probably so named because it frequents the cornfields in Mexico where it preys upon the rodents found there. The name is attributed by one Mexican source to Prehispanic peoples as well; these people called it "el cincuate ('serpientes de los elotes')" or serpent of the corn. In the state of Hidalgo, deppei is also called Cinquate. In other areas of Mexcio the name most often encountered is Corallilo.

Mexican's from the interior indicate that it is a common snake throughout its range but, unfortunately, it is usually killed on sight by the rural people who attribute many mythic qualities to it. Sucking milk out of goats hypnotizing birds are some of the most common myths. These myths are some of the same myths attributed to other snake species in the United States.

Prey: Primarily rodents with the occasional bird nestling.

Behavior: A typical Pituophis when disturbed in the field, the deppei deppei buzzes the tail, exhales air loudly through the epiglottis, and arches the neck into the typical S-shaped threat display. This species will more commonly (than other species of Pituophis) follow the display with immediate action. The bite is NOT a closed-mouth defensive bite; the deppei deppei mean business.

Captive Behavior: When handled regularly and often, adult deppei are tractable captives. Their impressive size and coloration makes them a favorite in the collections of many Pituophis collectors. They are not recommended for first time snake keepers (due to the sensitive of some juveniles) or those who fear being bitten.

Captive Breeding: Most breeders state that deppei deppei need a cooler temperature range (74-78 degrees with 82 degrees maximum) for successful culture. Alan Kardon further suggests a night drop, and for a montane species this makes perfect sense. Additionally, Kardon suggests adding the water container once a week to keep humidity levels down inside the cage, but other breeders have had success not utilizing this method. Make sure you monitor these snakes during the shed cycle, however, as you may have to replace the water bowl and leave it for the duration of the cycle to preclude stuck sheds.

Literature Cited:
Bartlett, R.D. and Patricia P. Bartlett. Snakes: A Complete Pet Owner's Manual, Hauppauge, NY: Barron's, 1998. [Has excellent photos of both subspecies on page 91.]

Mara, W.P. Pine Snakes: A Complete Guide, Neptune City, NJ: TFH Publications, Inc., 1994. [Both subspecies shown in photos on pages 18-19.]

"Sepientes Inofensivas de Jalisco," [http://www.cucba.udg.mx/es/paginter/anpel/serpientes_inofensivas_de_jalisc.html]

Stull, Olive Griffith. Variations and Relationships in the Snakes of the Genus Pituophis, United States National Museum, Bulletin 175, Washington, D.C., Smithsonian Institution, 1940.

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