• Lower Cliff Dwelling

    Tonto

    National Monument Arizona

Gopher Snake

two male gopher snakes fighting

Two male gopher snakes fighting

NPS Photo

Gopher Snake
Pituophis catenifer

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?

old photo of the Lower Cliff Dwellings

The first known written record of the cliff dwellings at Tonto National Monument dates from 1880. Archeologist Adolph Bandelier visited the dwellings in 1883, and said they were some of the best preserved he had ever seen. More...