Gopher Snakes

Order: Squamata; Family: Colubridae; Species: Pituophis catenifer
Range: The gopher snake ranges throughout most of the western United States, Canada, and Mexico. It extends only into the northernmost portions of Baja California.
Habitat: This snake is found in a wide variety of habitats, including woodlands, deserts, argricultural areas (such as cultivated fields), prairies, chaparral, and shrublands.
Diet: Small mammals, especially pocket gophers, birds and their eggs, and occasionally lizards and insects.
Lifespan: The average lifespan in wild gopher snakes is 12-15 years. In captivity, they have been known to live for as long as 33 years.   

Turtle Bay Gopher Snake.jpg


Chico was donated as a former pet. Chico is the subspecies Pacific gopher snake, which encompasses a large part of Northwestern California.  

Fun Facts

  • Gopher snakes are often mistaken as rattlesnakes; both for their color pattern and the fact that when they are scared they will shake their tails.  When in dry grass or leaves, this sounds like the  rattlesnake. They will also puff air into their throat to make their head appear larger like a rattlesnake when threatened.

  • How do you tell gopher snakes and rattlesnakes apart?  Rattlesnakes have a diamond shaped head and a rattle.  Baby gopher snakes look like rattlesnakes because their heads are so much bigger than their body, but they do not have a diamond shape and lack the rattle.  Gopher snakes appear shiny while a rattlesnake has a matted look. 

  • The gopher snake is one of California's most widespread and common snake.

  • One of the most commonly seen snakes on roads and trails, especially in the spring when males are actively seeking a mate, and in the fall when hatchlings emerge.

  • Can get up to six feet long.

  • They have semi- keeled scales, which means each scale has a small ridge down the center.  This makes them appear less shiny and lustrous than snakes with un-keeled scales, as the keeling causes the reflected light to scatter. They are still more shiny than the rattlesnakes though as their scales are not as rough as the fully keeled rattlesnake scale.