Gopher Snake

Left: gopher snake; Right: western rattlesnake

Nevada is home to a wide variety of reptiles, including the desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii), which was established as the official state reptile in 1989, the western banded gecko (Coleonyx variegatus), the western rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus), and many more. One interesting snake stands apart from the rest:  the gopher snake (Pituophis catenifer). What’s so special about this little snake though?

The Great Basin gopher snake is a subspecies that can be found throughout Nevada. Gopher snakes can grow to be anywhere between 4-5 feet in length. These heavy snakes are straw in color with dark brown blotches along its back. The blotches become irregular in shape along the snake’s sides. Their diet is rather typical of that of snakes — eating rodents, rabbits, birds, and lizards. Unlike other snakes, however, gophers are typically active during the day.

What really makes gopher snakes unique, though, is that they are imposters! Gophers snakes imitate the western rattlesnake both in appearance and behavior. Their color pattern is like that of a western rattlesnake and they flatten their heads to make it appear to be more triangular in an attempt to mimic the venomous pit viper. However, gopher snakes are non-venomous and dispatch their prey by constriction. Additionally, a gopher may also rattle its tail in dry grass and vegetation to mimic the sound of a rattle.

Denise Peterson

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