Body length: 36 - 110"
Diet: Rodents, rabbits, and birds
The photograph was taken of two male gopher snakes fighting on the Lower Cliff Dwelling trail in the spring of 1995; the fight occurred while visitors watched in late afternoon, and continued for at least two hours. Though rarely observed, such combat is probably common among male gopher snakes competing for territory or females. Each combatant tries to maintain the uppermost position and force his opponent's head to the ground.
Gopher snakes, often called "bullsnakes", are found throughout the US, and are seen with some frequency at the Monument. They are notorious impersonators of rattlesnakes - when alarmed, they flatten their heads, hiss, strike out repeatedly, and vibrate their rattle-less tails. Nevertheless, they usually become mild-mannered when handled, and are well-liked by some farmers because of the large numbers of rodents they consume.
Did You Know?
Tonto National Monument is home to a crested saguaro. Biologists disagree as to why some saguaros grow in this unusual form. Some speculate that it is a genetic mutation. Others say it is the result of lightning or freeze damage. About one in 150,000 saguaros develop this unusual growth.