Gopher Snakes

The idea of a snake strikes fear in the minds of many people. Oftentimes before a hike, the first question children ask is the likelihood of encountering one of these creatures. I always enjoy encountering a snake. There is a mystery in their swift undulations along the forest floor. Whenever I spot a snake with groups of students, their fear seems to vanish as they stare in fascination at the strange animal.

One time a young boy was particularly excited to see a large gopher snake lurking in the field right outside the office. Gopher holes litter the ground, a perfect place to find a meal. The snake was huge, at least 3 feet long and fairly thick around. A small group gathered to observe this strange animal.

Gopher snakes (Pituophis catenifer catenifer) can easily be mistaken for rattlesnakes. Their coloration resembles a rattlesnakes. When threatened the animal coils up, vibrates its tail, and produces a loud hissing noise. This behavior helps stop predators from slurping up the gopher snake like a piece of spaghetti. Gopher snakes can also flatten their head to mimic the triangular head of a rattlesnake.

One thing I find really interesting about snakes is the staggered gaps in their meals. Snakes are exothermic, meaning they receive their heat from their environment instead of producing it themselves. This is one factor which allows snakes to go long period of time without a meal. When the gopher snake eats it constricts its prey then, like all snakes, proceeds to swallow the whole animal. Two parallel sets of teeth walk along the prey and bring it to the snake’s stomach. Snakes are pretty awesome animals.