Gopher Snakes (Pituophis catenifer) are found throughout the basin and range. In northern Nevada we typically come across the Great Basin Gopher Snake (Pituophis catenifer deserticola).
Gopher snakes are also known as bull snakes or blow snakes. Some people confuse them with rattlesnakes; and indeed gopher snakes have evolved to mimic rattlesnakes. They do this in a few ways: (1) Their coloration is somewhat similar, however the patterns of the gopher snakes black/dark splotches down their backs are quite different from a rattlesnakes; (2) they shake their tails like rattlesnakes and when they do this in a pile of dry leaves, grass or other vegetation they can sound very similar to rattlers; and (3) they will flatten their heads and blow through their mouths to make a hissing noise, which also sounds similar to the rattle of a rattlesnake--this last reason is why they are sometimes referred to as blow snakes.
Gopher snakes are non-venomous, but they will bite you if they feel threatened.
Gopher snakes are typically around 4 to 5 feet in length and their bodies are moderately heavy. They are tan or straw in color with large, dark, rectangular blotches down the center of their backs, with smaller, more irregular blotches down their sides. Their heads are small when compared to rattlesnakes, but as mentioned above they'll flatten their heads to make them look bigger and more triangular like a rattlesnakes.
They typically eat small rodents (mice, rats, gophers, and ground squirrels), but they will also rabbits, birds (and their eggs), and lizards. They kill their prey by constriction.
These snakes tend to be out a lot in the day time and are unfortunately often on roadways where they are subjected to road kill. When out and about, I always try to stop--in a safe place--and prod snakes off roads to save them from the danger of death by vehicle.
Follow us on these social media sites:
The Basin and Range Project
We love the Basin and Range region and work to promote appreciation and respect for the area. We encourage all users to learn about, play in and protect this amazing resource.
We currently focus primarily on issues in the Nevada region of the Basin and Range, but are looking to expand soon.