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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 05, 2021

Fang-tastic Facts About The Sonoran Gopher Snake For Kids

Sonoran Gopher snake facts are very interesting, from how they reproduce, to their colors and markings.

The Sonoran Gopher snake (Pituophis catenifer affinis) is one of the six officially recognized subspecies of the Gopher snake. They can be found from the South of Canada, British Columbia to California, and far south. They can be found in a range of habitat environments, but mostly in desert regions. These brown and cream snakes are very often confused with rattlesnakes, and with a similar rattling tail and markings, it's not hard to see why!

Interestingly this snake species have very little to do with their eggs and young. They do not parent their offspring and live very solitary lives. If you are interested in other fact files about snakes, take a look at the incredible water snake and western ribbon snake. And in case you are wondering what's the difference between a Sonoran Gopher snake and a Rattlesnake, and if a Gopher is venomous, don't worry, we have got that covered here.

Sonoran Gopher Snake Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a Sonoran Gopher?

A Sonoran Gopher is a snake from the Gopher Snake Pituophis genus. All snakes are reptiles.

What class of animal does a Sonoran Gopher Snake belong to?

A Sonoran Gopher snake belongs to the reptile family of the animal kingdom. Their scientific name is the Pituophis catenifer affinis.

How many Sonoran Gopher Snakes are there in the world?

At present the population of the snake (Pituophis catenifer affinis) Gopher species is unknown.

Where does a Sonoran Gopher Snake live?

Sonoran Gopher snakes live in the desert, they can be found all over Southern Canada, America, California, and Baja California, North Mexico. These snakes have a dark stripe in front of their eyes, along the angle of the jaw, and dark brown spots along their body.

What is a Sonoran Gopher Snake's habitat?

This snake species can be found in British Columbia, Southern Canada, and range from North America, to the far south of America, California, and Baja California, North Mexico. The species originates from America. In the regions where they live, such as North America, it's common to find many other native snakes, such as the Pine Snake (Pituophis melanoleucus). Gopher snakes live in desert flats and coastal dunes.

Who do Sonoran Gopher Snakes live with?

These snakes live alone in burrows. Often they live in the burrows of other animals and small mammals, although they can dig their own. During the cold winter months, Sonoran Gopher snakes hibernate underground. They often live alongside other snakes, such as the Pine Snake (Pituophis melanoleucu)

How long does a Sonoran Gopher Snake live?

They live on average from 12-15 years in the wild. The longest living Gopher snake on record lived for 33 years, in captivity.

How do they reproduce?

The snake males reach sexual maturity around 1.5 years, and the females reach sexual maturity around three to four years of age. The Gopher mating season is in spring; when the females give off skin secretions, the males detect to signify they are receptive to mating. A male Gopher will line up its body next to the female Gopher, and they often bite the back of the female's neck. The female Gopher snake doesn't incubate her eggs. As such, the snake must find a safe place to lay eggs. These sites are frequently shared with other snakes, including other Gophers. They hatch after 65-75 days of incubation. Once the baby snakes hatch from the eggs, they are instantly independent snakes. The parents have no involvement with their offspring. The Pituophis catenifer, Gopher snake, grows very quickly for the first three years of life, and then the pace slows down.

Interestingly outside of the mating process, males and females have little interaction with each other. They meet to breed once a year. Males mate with as many females as possible.

What is their conservation status?

They are listed as Least Concern on the IUCN rankings of conservation. There have been many cases of this Gopher snake species having been removed from their natural habitat by humans, after being mistaken for a rattlesnake.

Sonoran Gopher Snake Fun Facts

What do Sonoran Gopher Snakes look like?

Sonoran Gopher snakes are long muscular snakes. They have a dark stripe that runs along the angle of the jaw up to the Gopher's eyes. This snake species have brown or reddish blotches across the length of their body. They are generally light in color, with dark spots along the side of their bodies. They usually have a cream belly, sometimes with dark brown spots. There's also a rare Albino Sonoran Gopher snake, which is white!

The Sonoran Gopher snake and Rattlesnake look very similar.

How cute are they?

Unless you are a serious snake lover, Gopher snakes are not considered cute by the majority of the population. These Gopher snakes have brown or reddish blotches and a dark stripe that runs from their eyes along the angle of the jaw. They hiss loudly, and indeed present very aggressive, even if they are non-venomous! In fact, many people are phobic of snakes. This is known as ophidiophobia.

How do they communicate?

Gopher snakes use chemical signals to communicate with other snakes. This is known as using the vomeronasal system. They can also vibrate their tails to signify a danger warning, strike quickly, hiss, and bite. In general, they live very independent lives and cover an area of land as their territory.

How big is a Sonoran Gopher Snake?

The Sonoran Gopher snake size can range from 4.17–6 ft (127–183 cm), there have been some cases of this species measuring up to 9 ft (2.7 m)!

How fast can a Sonoran Gopher Snake move?

In their natural habitat, a Gopher snake can reach speeds up to roughly 4 mph. They can certainly move very quickly when they strike!

How much does a Sonoran Gopher Snake weigh?

The weight of this snake species isn't known, although on average the Gopher family of snakes weigh around 2-4 lb.

What are their male and female names of the species?

Females and males do not have a specific gender term. They both have a cream color and dark brown spots, although it is very difficult to tell them apart, the females usually have skinnier tails.

What would you call a baby Sonoran Gopher Snake?

A baby Gopher snake is known as a snakelet, a neonate, or a hatchling snake.

What do they eat?

The Gopher snake dines on small mammals such as rodents. In particular, they like to eat Gophers, which is where they take their name. They are also known to eat rats, mice, and even small birds. Gopher snakes are constrictors, which strangle their prey.

Are they poisonous?

Unlike rattlesnakes, they are non-venomous. Though be warned, they give a nasty bite and hiss loudly!

Would they make a good pet?

They make good pets and are generally low maintenance. Sonoran Gopher snake care entails feeding them thawed mice or rats roughly once every 10 days. They also need access to fresh and clean water at all times.

It's best to get a Sonoran Gopher from a reputable breeder or pet store, always ask about their health history, and do not attempt to capture a wild snake. Check your local state's laws for owning a Gopher, as some states require a special permit to own a native pet snake.

Since they can reach up to six feet in length, you would need a very large tank for this animal! A screen-topped glass tank is a good option, where you can see your pet snake. Ensure you have a heating pad and a cooler area for the snake within the tank habitat. It's also a good idea to decorate one side of the tank. This helps a shy snake to feel more comfortable. It's a good idea to make sure the tank is very secure, as Sonoran Gopher snakes are known to be good at escaping!

Did you know...

Although they are non-venomous snakes, they can still hiss loudly and give a very nasty bite to humans!

Sonoran Gopher Snakes vs Rattlesnakes

The Rattlesnake species and Sonoran Gopher snakes are often confused by many onlookers as they present very similarly. When threatened, the Gopher snake will flatten its head and hiss, vibrate, rattle its tail, and then strike. This is very similar to the Rattlesnake. However, Sonoran Gopher snakes are non-venomous. A Gopher tail is narrow and pointed, whereas the Rattlesnakes tail is wider and blunt in shape.

Gopher snakes are often longer than a rattlesnake and have smaller dark spots along the side of their body. Another clue is their eyes. Gopher pupils are rounded, whereas a Rattlesnake has cat-like vertical pupils. Both are very territorial snakes and hiss loudly. Should the two fight, it's likely the Gopher snake would kill the Rattlesnake. They are known constrictors, which means they squeeze their prey to death.

The Sonoran Gopher Snake's birthing process

A key difference between a Rattlesnake and a Sonoran Gopher is how they reproduce. Gophers lay eggs, whereas a Rattlesnake gives birth to live young. Gophers lay eggs in batches, known as clutches. The eggs range in size from 2.0 in × 1.4 in (51 mm × 35 mm). The hatchlings are about 15.5 in (40 cm) in total body length. The females do not have any role in taking care of their eggs or the young snakes. In one season, the females can lay more than one clutch of eggs.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other reptiles including a corn snake, or rattlesnake.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our angry snake coloring pages.

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