Couleuvre à Nez Mince / Gophersnake
This is a large, heavy bodied snake which may reach 2 m in total length. It is light
coloured with dark black, brown or reddish rectagular blotches down the back alternating
with blotches on the sides to form a checkered pattern. In the Alberta subspecies,
commonly called the Bullsnake , individuals are yellowish in background colour. In the
British Columbia subspecies the blotches on the back may be fused to those on the sides.
The scales on the belly may be checkered as well, generally brown and cream colours.
Three subspecies are known from Canada, the Pacific Gophersnake
(Pituophis catenifer catenifer) of southwestern British Columbia (now
Great Basin Gophersnake (P. c. deserticola) of
southern BC, and the Bullsnake (P. c. sayi) of the prairies.
There are three other western blotched snakes. The
Western Hog-nosed has a characteristic upturned snout. The
Prairie Rattlesnake has a distinctly triangular
head, a rattle at the tip of the tail and more rounded or hexagonal blotches.
The Night Snake is a small slender snake with
a vertical pupil in the eye.
Gophersnakes are found in southern Saskatchewan, Alberta and interior British Columbia.
They are widely distributed throughout much of the western and southeastern US and south
The species is found in desert, short grass prairie and dry open scrubland. It is often
seen near rock piles or boulders in areas with sandy soil but may also be found near
farms and fields.
Gophersnakes mate in the spring and from 2-24 eggs are laid once or twice during the
summer. These are often laid in small mammal burrows. Hatchlings are 20-40 cm total
length and appear in late summer or early fall.
Gophersnakes eat small mammals, especially rodents, for which they are prized by farmers.
They also eat birds, birds' eggs, lizards and invertebrates. They are primarily active
during the day but may burrow underground during very hot weather and become more active
at night. They are often mistaken for Rattlesnakes for a number of reasons. They are
found in the same habitats, tend to hibernate in the same dens and when frightened they
hiss loudly and vibrate their tails. Although they do not have a rattle, in dry grass the
vibrating tail may sound similar to a rattle. Although not poisonous they do have a painful
Like many snakes, Gophersnakes are often killed maliciously by people who either think they
are dangerous or simply don't like snakes. The Pacific Gophersnake has been designated
Extirpated by COSEWIC. The Great
Basin Gophersnake has been designated Threatened by COSEWIC because of the significant
loss of habitat as a result of agricultural development and the increasing risk of traffic
mortality with a growing road network. There is insufficient data to determine the status
of the Bullsnake.