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Gophersnake Pituophis catenifer

Next to the Western Diamondback, the Gophersnake may be the most commonly snake seen in Arizona. This is not only due to it being incredibly common, but also because it has adapted very well to life in the city. They can be found on golfcourses, parks, alleyways, and back yards throughout the city, even deep into fully urbanized areas.

They can be very large, with adults commonly exceeding 5' or more in length. They are often mistaken for rattlesnakes because of their superficial likeness, and tendency to quickly become defensive when approached. They may open their mouths to hiss, and even rattle their striped tail while striking out towards a perceived threat.

They can be differentiated from the superficially similar Western Diamondback Rattlesnake by the lack of rattle, and tail that tapers to a point, ending in strongly-contrasting brown and yellow or black and yellow bands. The pattern may change dramatically from head to tail tip, often giving observers the impression of multiple snakes present. The coil, too, of a resting gophersnake is a loose coil, rather than the tight, circular coil of a rattlesnake.

While they are not at all venomous, they may bite if handled, the worst result being a few cuts on the hand. They are great pest control (which can actually help keep other, venomous species away), and are great to have around for that reason.

Bullsnake or Gophersnake?


Truly, it doesn't really matter. If someone in Arizona refers to a Bullsnake, the animal being described is understood. Technically, however, Bullsnake is the common name designated to a subspecies of gophersnake not found in Arizona: Pituophis catenifer sayi. The two subspeces of gophersnakes found in Arizona, are the Great Basin Gophersnake, Pituophis catenifer deserticola, and Sonoran Gophersnake, Pituophis catenifer affinis. Does it matter? No, but to to be technically accurate, the statement that "Bullsnakes do not live in Arizona" is true.

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