Gopher Snake on Kite Lawn

Gopher Snake

A family picnicking on the Kite Lawn next to the parking circle alerted me to this gopher snake.  This individual, a bit over three feet long — small for its kind, probably a youngster — tolerated attention from fascinated humans young and old, and from one restrained canine, for a while, and then had enough and meandered north into the tall grass, where it disappeared (see video below).

Gopher snakes, as every young scientist knows, are not venomous and pose no danger to humans.  They are useful in controlling unwanted rodent populations.  Uninformed people sometimes confuse them with rattlesnakes.  Here are some points to help distinguish them, from the Live Science website:

  • Gopher snakes are typically longer than rattlesnakes [not this individual, though].  They are also slimmer and not as heavy-bodied as a rattlesnake.
  • When not flattened out, a gopher snake’s head is narrow and rounded.
  • Like the majority of nonvenomous snakes in the United States, gopher snakes have rounded pupils and not vertical, cat-like pupils of rattlesnakes.
  • Gopher snakes also do not possess the heat-sensing facial pits like rattlesnakes and other pit vipers.
  • Gopher snakes do not have rattles on the end of their tails, but this may be hard to determine when they are rapidly vibrating their tails.

The only other gopher snakes I’ve seen in the park have been on the north side.  Never saw one this far south.  The snake’s instincts were good, though.  There are gophers here.  I’ve seen Great Blue Herons stalk and take them in this area.   This snake wasn’t big enough to take an adult gopher.  Its target would be baby gophers. Fortunately for the snake, none of the big birds were present, or the predator could have become prey.

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