Gopher snake

gopher snake - John Hanna

Pituophis catenifer

Gopher snakes live throughout the Bay Area in a wide variety of habitats.  When agitated, gopher snakes will mimic the defensive posture of rattlesnakes, flattening out their heads and shaking their tails.  When this is done in dry vegetation, it closely resembles the sound of a rattlesnake. They also produce a guttural hiss when threatened and may excrete a foul-smelling musk.

Like all snakes, gopher snakes are carnivores.  They kill prey by striking and then squeezing.  Although they will eat pocket gophers, they are named primarily for their habitat of living in gopher burrowers.  They eat small mammals, birds, and lizards. Gopher snakes are beneficial in that they help control rodent populations, but, because of their tendency to mimic rattlesnakes, people often mistakenly kill them.

Snakes do not have ears or eardrums but can hear airborne sounds.  Sounds are transmitted from skin to muscle to bone.  Most sounds are transmitted through the jaw muscle to a bone in the ear.  This is most effective for picking up low frequency sounds.

Our resident gopher snakes were all former pets.