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Today’s Teachable Moment: Gopher Snake

So who said they rarely see snakes in the wild? Me? Yikes, I should have know better than that.

Today on our hike I took a little side trail because I could see some delphiniums blooming on the hillside. I was by myself and down about 20 yards from where I left Mr. A and our dog sitting in the shade.

I was busy taking photos when I looked to my left and just a few feet away was this huge snake laying half on the trail and half in the dry grass.
Gopher Snake 1

He was so still that I thought maybe he was dead and at first I couldn’t see his head. I hollered up to my son not to come down with the dog because there was a really big snake. He wanted to know what kind because immediately we think rattlesnake when we see a big snake.

Gopher Snake 2
I checked his tail and didn’t see a rattle and then I moved ever so slightly closer to see if I could locate his head. Wow! He was a big snake but I did manage to see the head and it was round and not diamond shaped so I felt fairly comfortable identifying it as something other than a rattler. I am guessing that he was at least 5 feet long. I snapped a few photos so we could take a closer look once we got home and make a positive identification. I didn’t get the whole snake in the photo and I did not take a photo of his head since I did not want to get that close to a live snake.

We had done the preparation work (you can read our entry HERE) for all the snakes on our list last week so I thought it was either a kingsnake or a gopher snake. We came home and pulled out the field guide and sure enough….gopher snake or Pituophis melanoleucus. The guide says gopher snakes can be up to 7 feet long. They eat small animals such as gophers, mice, ground squirrels, and small rabbits. They squeeze their prey until movement stops and then it swallows it whole.

I found this graphic online for our future reference:
Know Your Snakes: Differences Between Gopher Snake and Rattlesnake

I knew we wanted to do more snake study but I never dreamed a subject would come our way so quickly.

10 thoughts on “Today’s Teachable Moment: Gopher Snake

  1. I would have PASSED OUT!!

  2. Yes, that is a big snake! I was wondering if you would suddenly see more snakes now that you said that you rarely see them in the wild. That always happens to me! I have never heard of a Gopher snake. It is so neat seeing how all the wildlife is the same and yet different in the many places that the nature study posts are from. I thank you again for all the work you do.

  3. I’ll give ya a big – It Serves Ya Right! Makin’ us go out looking for them . . . . .Glad you got to join the fun too!

  4. I find that I have such a visceral reaction to a snake. Especially one in the wild, but even a snake in a zoo or a museum. As if there is some bone deep recognition of being in the presence of something that is not my friend.
    Eels in Hawaii were similar, if perhaps even a bit worse for the sense that I was in their environment, not my own.

  5. Neat! I have never heard of a gopher snake. I wish we would see more snakes. Here (northern NY) I’ve only ever seen garter snakes.

  6. I have only seen one snake in our yard in 7 years. Oop, maybe I shoudln’t have said that. lol. We will be crawling with them now.

  7. Oh my goodness! Now THAT is a SNAKE! 😀

  8. Sebastian,

    My son and I talked about that very gut reaction we have to snakes on our hike back up the hill. Lizards, no problem. Geckos, no problem. Newts, no problem. But put a snake there in front of you and the reaction is to immediately recoil back.

    Must be Biblical. 🙂


  9. WOW!!! That is a big snake! I think it would be very interesting to see it in the wild, but I would want to be able to identify what type it is before getting closer too.

  10. How neat! And, isn’t that amazing that you had just prepared for such an encounter. 🙂

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