Great Basin Gophersnake

Pitophus catenifer deserticola

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Status

Threatened (Federal)
Blue List (Provincial)

Description

Non-venomous snake up to 2m (6.5 ft) in length. The base body colour is grey, cream or yellowish; the underside is white. The back and sides are marked with a series of regularly spaced dark brown or black rectangular blotches that become stripes on the tail. The head features several dark stripes that give it a 'masked' appearance.
This species is also mistakenly called the 'Bullsnake, which is the name usually given to a more Eastern subspecies of Gophersnake. Gophersnakes are also sometimes mistakenly identified as Northern Pacific Rattlesnakes.

Habitat

Grassland
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Rocky terrain
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Forest
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They forage in a variety of open habitats, including grasslands, dry open forest, edges of cultivated fields, shrubby areas, talus, wetlands, and riparian areas. Gophersnakes shelter in underground burrows, at the base of shrubs, or under rocks, logs or other cover objects. Females lay their eggs in burrows on warm grassy slopes or in fine talus. Gophersnakes hibernate during winter in dens in bedrock crevices, in deep burrows in earth or in road-fill, or in interstitial spaces between rocks in talus slopes.

Range in BC includes most of the warm, dry Southern Interior, including the grassland valleys of the Thompson and Okanagan rivers; Fraser River Valley from Lillooet north to Big Bar Creek; Lower Nicola River Valley; Similkameen River Valley; from the international boundary to Hedley; and Kettle River Valley from Rock Creek to Christina Lake.

Threats

-Habitat loss from agricultural and urban development
-Reduction of prey from trapping, shooting, and poisoning
-High mortality from vehicles and roads
-Mortality from agricultural machinery
-Human fear and persecution of snakes (although nonvenomous, this snake resembles the Western Rattlesnake)

You Can Help!

-Protect grassland-shrub-steppe and rugged terrain habitats
-Avoid trapping, shooting, and poisoning of small mammals
-Be mindful of snakes crossing roadways
-Check agricultural machinery before and during use
-Avoid disrupting dens and nesting sites
-Educate others to prevent needless persecution of snakes

Photo: Paula Rodriguez de la Vega
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Photo: Valerie Blow
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