Pacific Gopher Snake

(Pituophis catenifer catenifer)

Common Name: Pacific Gopher Snake

Scientific Name: Pituophis catenifer catenifer

Reptiles Alive Name: Carl Spackler

Hisssstory: Carl the gopher snake was abandoned along with dozens of other snakes in at a home in Alexandria VA. The Alexandria Animal Welfare League rescued all of the snakes, and we adopted him.

RA Diet: Frozen mice

Natural Diet: Small mammals, birds, eggs, amphibians and insects

Range: Northern California north of Santa Barbara into Oregon

Habitat: Grasslands, woodlands, coniferous forests, farmland, chaparral, marshes, and riparian lowlands.

Size: The Pacific gopher snake can reach a length between 2 ½ – 7 feet and weigh 2-4 pounds.

Lifespan: In the wild they can live an estimated 10 years. In captivity, gopher snakes have been recorded to live 12-15 years.

Reproduction: Breeding season begins in early spring, with males fighting for females and territories. Males will often perform combat dances with each other that involve hissing, head rearing and intertwining. Though, rarely is biting involved. Only the victor will mate with nearby females. The female will lay her eggs in an abandoned mammal burrow and provide no further parental care. Females may produce more than one clutch per year.

Conservation: Although Pacific gopher snakes are common in most parts of their range and are prized in many agricultural areas for their natural pest control, they are still threatened with habitat loss and persecution by humans. Many gopher snakes meet an unfortunate end when they are confused with the venomous rattlesnake.

Cool Facts: When threatened, the Pacific gopher snake mimics the behavior of a rattlesnake. It will inflate its body, flatten its head, produce a loud hiss, and move its tail back and forth rapidly in the dry vegetation to produce a rattling sound. They put on a good show but are harmless to humans.

“Reptiles Alive was wonderful and had the kids full attention. We’ll see you again next year!!” – Stacee Bako, Mom, Arlington, VA