Gopher Snake

Yellow and orange snake on sand
Sonoran Gopher snake coiled on sand.

William Flaxington

 

Scientific Name

Sonoran Gopher Snake: Pituophis catenifer affinis

Great Basin Gopher Snake: Pituophis catenifer deserticola

 

Identification

  • Gopher snakes are the longest snake in the Grand Canyon, reaching up to 92 inches (2.3m).
  • They have a base color that is tan, cream, yellow, or orange-brown. A series of large brown, red, black, or olive blotches cover the back of the snake.
  • On Sonoran gopher snakes, the splotches on the back are the same color across the length of the body. Great Basin gopher snakes have black blotches on their neck, and red or brown blotches on the rest of the body.
 

Habitat

  • The Sonoran and Great Basin gopher snakes are subspecies of the Pacific gopher snake, which is found throughout the western United States and Canada. Between the 2 sub-species, gopher snakes can be found in every part of Arizona except for the peaks of the San Francisco mountains, south of the Grand Canyon.
  • The Sonoran Gopher snake is primarily found on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. The Great Basin gopher snake is primarily found on the North Rim.
  • Gopher snakes can be found in every landscape in the Grand Canyon, including the wooded forests of the Rims, the dry scrub inside the Canyon, and the desert environments of western Grand Canyon.
 

Behavior

  • Gopher snakes are constrictors, meaning that they kill prey by wrapping their muscular body around the prey animal and squeezing to prevent blood flow.
  • Prey ranges from rats, rabbits, and other snakes to birds and eggs. These snakes earned their name because pocket gophers make up a large portion of their diet.
  • In the winter in the Grand Canyon, gopher snakes hibernate in burrows abandoned by other animals. They will often share the den with rattlesnakes or other snake species.
  • They have a series of black bands on their tail that mimic the rattle found on rattlesnakes. When threatened, a gopher snake will rapidly vibrate its tail, making attackers think it is a highly venomous rattlesnake.
 

Last updated: April 5, 2016

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