GOPHERSNAKE
Pituophis catenifer
(Blainville 1835)


pĭt-ū-ō-fĭs — kă-tĭn-ĕh-fŭr




An adult Gophersnake from Hamilton County, Kansas. Image © Travis W. Taggart.
An adult Gophernake from Comanche County. © Maci Loughrea.
An adult Gophersnake from Bourbon County, Kansas. © Travis W. Taggart.
An adult from Kiowa County. Image © Travis W. Taggart.
An adult from Ellis County. Image © Suzanne L. Collins, CNAH.
Image © Suzanne L. Collins, CNAH.
An adult from Lincoln County. Image © Jim Scharosch.

Description:
Harmless. The Gophersnake (aka Bullsnake) is unique among Kansas snakes in having an enlarged (but not upturned) rostral scale, keeled scales and a single anal plate. No other blotched snake in Kansas has a pattern of well-defined alternation dark brown and yellow/orange bands on the tail.  The ground color varies from straw yellow to white on the neck and fore part of the body, dull yellow on the body, and a cleaner, brighter yellow on the tail. Kansas Gophersnakes have over 40 large, dark body blotches on the body alone. These blotches are usually black/dark brown on the neck and fore part of the body turning lighter- or reddish-brown on the body. There are also smaller lateral spots on the sides, sometimes connecting or forming a checkerboard effect. The side scales are also tipped with brown or black. In the southern and western portions of its geographical range, the Bullsnake takes on a more brownish appearance; the ground color is light brown and the blotches are dark brown.
Largest snake in Kansas; adults normally grow 948-1,830 mm (37-72 inches) in TL; largest specimen from Kansas: female (KU 189258) from Harper County with TL of 2,260 mm (88 5/8 inches) and weight of about 3,630 grams (8 pounds) collected by M. Kane on 21 May 1981; maximum length throughout range: 105 inches (Devitt et al., 2007).

Distribution:
The Gophersnake may be expected statewide but is generally only widespread west of the Flint Hills.

(, Museum Voucher) (, Observation) (, Literature Record)
Open icons are questionable records; Click on a marker to view details. Export Google Earth (.kml)
  • Occurrence Summary:  
  • 1,485 Total Records 
  • 813 Museum Vouchers 
  • 672 Other Observations 
Some county occurrences indicated below may be too imprecise to map above.
County Breakdown: County Name (# occurrences):
Allen (5); Anderson (8); Atchison (1); Barber (59); Barton (7); Bourbon (8); Brown (2); Butler (8); Chase (7); Chautauqua (1); Cherokee (3); Cheyenne (19); Clark (44); Clay (5); Cloud (8); Coffey (2); Comanche (16); Cowley (39); Crawford (7); Decatur (6); Dickinson (9); Doniphan (8); Douglas (44); Edwards (13); Elk (1); Ellis (106); Ellsworth (9); Finney (178); Ford (22); Franklin (34); Geary (14); Gove (16); Graham (3); Grant (14); Gray (16); Greeley (1); Greenwood (9); Hamilton (26); Harper (29); Harvey (3); Haskell (7); Hodgeman (14); Jackson (2); Jefferson (3); Jewell (5); Johnson (2); Kearney (26); Kingman (12); Kiowa (24); Labette (1); Lane (7); Leavenworth (2); Lincoln (3); Linn (3); Logan (33); Lyon (10); Marion (5); Marshall (20); McPherson (1); Meade (36); Miami (6); Mitchell (2); Montgomery (2); Morris (2); Morton (33); Nemaha (1); Ness (7); Norton (5); Osage (6); Osborne (11); Ottawa (1); Pawnee (16); Phillips (9); Pottawatomie (5); Pratt (12); Rawlins (9); Reno (11); Republic (6); Rice (8); Riley (26); Rooks (21); Rush (8); Russell (33); Saline (7); Scott (12); Sedgwick (8); Seward (38); Shawnee (4); Sheridan (2); Sherman (6); Smith (3); Stafford (15); Stanton (13); Stevens (9); Sumner (6); Thomas (4); Trego (45); Unknown (2); Wabaunsee (5); Wallace (13); Washington (17); Wichita (4); Wilson (2); Woodson (2); Wyandotte (2);

Natural History:
Lives in open grasslands and woodland edge. Active from April to November; generally diurnal, basking in the sun or foraging for food. The number of eggs per clutch ranges from 3-22. It is a constrictor. Most economically beneficial snake in Kansas, consuming large quantities of rodents and pocket gophers, also eats rabbits, ground squirrels, birds and bird eggs; rarely bats. 
Scheffer (1911) details the predatory behaviors of the Gophersnake on the Plains Pocket Gopher (Geomys bursarius) in Kansas.
Gophersnakes breed in May; the males may combat with one another for a female. Generally, the male crawls alongside and over the female, making rhythmic motions with his body. Just before copulation, the male may grasp the female's head or neck in his mouth. Sometimes, copulation can become quite violent, both snakes wrapping about each other. Copulation may take from several minutes to hours.
After mating, the pair splits up and the male will wander about the prairie in search of food. Males have much larger home ranges than females. Females are oviparous and lay about a dozen eggs in the sand or other protected areas where they can incubate without the aid of the female. Late June and into July are common egg-laying months. The young will hatch in August or September. They are just over a foot at hatching (8 - 18 inches) and differ from the adults in having an all around grayish coloration, which is lost after their first shed.
Burt and Hoyle (1935) reported that two adult females collected by Charles E. Burt in Butler County, were found to contain large eggs in the oviducts on 26 June 1931, one having five eggs and the other ten eggs. They reported another specimen collected by William L. Hoyle in Chase County, Kansas, on 12 May 1933, had a young Black-tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus californicus) in its stomach.
Riedle (1998) reported a juvenile male (471 SVL, 538 TL) basking on a levee in Elk County on 18 December 1997 at an air temperature of 65 deg F.


Occurrence Activity:
White dates indicate there is at least a single recorded occurrence on that date. The darker blue a date is, the greater the relative number of observations for that date.
Remarks:
Gophersnakes are commonly thought to prey on other snakes, especially rattlesnakes, however, there is no evidence to support this claim. Both Gophersnakes and Kansas' rattlesnakes prey on small mammals.
Parks (1969) reported a Gophersnake active on 21 February 1969 in Ellis County. 
The Bullsnake (P. c. sayi) is a variety of Gophersnake (P. catenifer) genally found east of the Rocky Mountains and the Pecos River and west of the Mississippi  River o intfrom northern Mexicoo into Canada.
Emits a loud “hiss” when disturbed or frightened, by forcefully exhaling air across a cartinagilious ridge situated In front of the glottis.


Bibliography:
1875 Cope, Edward D. Check-list of North American Batrachia and Reptilia; with a systematic list of the higher groups, and an essay on geographical distribution. Based on the specimens contained in the U.S. National Museum. Bulletin of the United States National Museum 1():1-104
1877 Mozley, Annie E List of Kansas snakes in the museum of the Kansas State Univeristy Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 6():34-35
1882 Yarrow, Henry C. Check list of North American Reptilia and Batrachia with catalogue of specimens in U. S. National Museum. Bulletin of the United States National Museum (24):1-249
1885 Cragin, Francis W. Recent additions to the list of Kansas reptiles and batrachians, with further notes on species previously reported. Bulletin of the Washburn College Laboratory of Natural History 1(3):100-103
1885 Cragin, Francis W. Second contribution to the herpetology of Kansas, with observations on the Kansas fauna. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 9():136-140
1904 Branson, Edwin B. Snakes of Kansas. University of Kansas Science Bulletin 2(13):353-430
1911 Scheffer, T. H. Distribution, natural enemies and breeding habits of the Kansas Pocket Gopher. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 23/24():109-114
1917 Wooster, Lyman D. Nature Study Bulletin Kansas State Printing Plant, Topeka, Kansas.. 63pp.
1925 Linsdale, Jean M. Land Vertebrates of a Limited Area in Eastern Kansas. Thesis. University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas. 312pp.
1927 Linsdale, Jean M. Amphibians and reptiles of Doniphan County, Kansas. Copeia 1927(164):75-81
1927 Pope, T. E. B. A two-headed bullsnake. Yearbook. Publication of the Museum of Milwaukee 1925(5):161-167
1928 Burt, Charles E. Some distributional and ecological records of Kansas reptiles. Transactions of the Academy of Science St. Louis 26():186-208
1929 Burt, Charles E. and May Danheim Burt. A collection of amphibians and reptiles from the Mississippi valley, with field observations. American Museum Novitates (381):1-14
1929 Taylor, Edward H. A revised checklist of the snakes of Kansas. University of Kansas Science Bulletin 19(5):53-62
1929 Taylor, Edward H. List of reptiles and batrachians of Morton County, Kansas, reporting species new to the state fauna. University of Kansas Science Bulletin 19(6):63-65
1932 Gloyd, Howard K. The herpetological fauna of the Pigeon Lake Region, Miami County, Kansas. Papers of the Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan 15():389-408
1934 Brennan, Lawrence A. A check list of the amphibians and reptiles of Ellis County, Kansas. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 37():189-191
1934 Burt, Charles E. and W. L. Hoyle. Additional records of the reptiles of the central prairie region of the United States. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 37():193-216
1935 Brennan, Lawrence A. Notes on the Distribution of Amphibia and Reptilia of Ellis County, Kansas. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 114pp.
1935 Burt, Charles E. Further records of the ecology and distribution of amphibians and reptiles in the middle west. American Midland Naturalist 16(3):311-366
1935 Burt, Charles E. and William L. Hoyle. Additional records of the reptiles of the central prairie region of the United States Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 37():193-216
1937 Brennan, Lawrence A. A study of the habitat of reptiles and amphibians of Ellis County, Kansas. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 40():341-347
1937 Grant, Chapman. Herpetological notes from Central Kansas. American Midland Naturalist 18(3):370-372
1941 Branson, F. and C. Deyoe A study of snakes and lizards of Ellis County. Unpublished data, Fort Hays State University. pp.
1944 Marr, John C. Notes on amphibians and reptiles from the central United States. American Midland Naturalist 32(2):478-490
1956 Diener, Richard A. New records of snakes in southwestern Kansas. The Southwestern Naturalist 1(1):27-29
1956 Loomis, Richard B. The chigger mites of Kansas (Acarina, Trombiculidae). University of Kansas Science Bulletin 37():1195-1443
1962 Gish, Charles D. The Herpetofauna of Ellis County, Kansas. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 34pp.
1969 Parks, Leland H An active Bull Snake in near-freezing temperature Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 72(2):266
1973 McLeran, V. Friendly constrictors. Kansas Fish and Game (30(2)):8-11
1975 Rundquist, Eric M. First KHS field trip yields three county records. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (7):1-3
1976 Caldwell, Janalee P. and Gregory. Glass. Vertebrates of the Woodson County State Fishing Lake and Game Management Area. Pages 62-76 in Preliminary inventory of the biota of Woodson County State Fishing Lake and Game Management Area. Report No. 5. State Biological Survey of Kansas, Lawrence. pp.
1977 Knight, James L. and Joseph T. Collins. The amphibians and reptiles of Cheyenne County, Kansas, Report Number 15. Kansas Biological Survey, Lawrence. 19pp.
1980 Clarke, Robert F. Herptiles and fishes of the western Arkansas River in Kansas. United States Army Corps of Engineers, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 55pp.
1982 Fitch, Henry S. Resources of a snake community in prairie-woodland habitat of northeastern Kansas. Pages 83-97 in Herpetological communities: A symposium of the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles and the Herpetologists League, August 1977.  Wildlife Research Reports 12. 239 pp. U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, D. C. pp.
1987 Miller, Larry L. Another Bullsnake story. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (68):17-18
1989 Platt, Dwight R. Seasonal activity of snakes on a sand prairie. Pages 251-254 in Proceedings of the 11th North American Prairie Conference University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln. pp.
1990 Sweet, Samuel S. and William S. Parker. Pituophis melanoleucus. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles (474):1-8
1991 Collins, Joseph T. and Suzanne L. Collins. Reptiles and Amphibians of the Cimarron National Grasslands, Morton County, Kansas. U. S. Forest Service, Elkhart, Kansas. 60pp.
1991 Fitch, Henry S. Reptiles and amphibians of the Kansas ecological reserves. Pages 71-74 in Multidisciplinary Guidebook 4. Kansas Academy of Science, Lawrence. pp.
1992 Ball, Robert L. High plains serpents: Results of a long-term study in Texas County, Oklahoma and Morton County, Kansas Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (88):16-17
1993 Fitzgerald, Eve C. and Charles H. Nilon Testing the accuracy of an HSI model in and urban county. ():16
1998 Riedle, J. Darren. Winter snake activity. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (111):16
1999 Taggart, Travis W. Cherokee County fall 1999 herp count. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (117):6
2000 Taggart, Travis W. Biogeographic analysis of the reptiles (Squamata) in Ellis County, Kansas. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (121):7-16
2000 Taggart, Travis W. KHS spring field trip sets record for attendance. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (120):5-5
2000 Van Doren, Mark D. and Curtis J. Schmidt. A herpetological survey of the Fort Larned National Historic Site, Pawnee County, Kansas. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (120):8-11
2001 Kretzer, Justin E. and Jack F. Cully, Jr. Effects of Blacktailed Prairie Dogs on reptiles and amphibians in Kansas shortgrass prairie. Southwestern Naturalist 46(2):171-177
2001 Schmidt, Curtis J. The amphibians, turtles, and reptiles of the Smoky Valley Ranch, Logan County, Kansas. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (124):9-11
2001 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the KHS spring field trip west. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (125):10
2001 Taggart, Travis W. The KHS 2001 spring field trip: A rainy rendezvous. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (124):12-14
2002 Riedle, J. Daren and A. Hynek. Amphibian and reptile inventory of the Kansas Army Ammunition Plant, Labette County, Kansas. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (2):18-20
2002 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the KHS 2002 fall field Trip. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (4):11-13
2002 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the spring 2002 KHS field trip. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (3):6-7
2003 Taggart, Travis W. Logan County herp count. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (7):8
2004 Delisle, Jennifer M. and William H. Busby Biological inventory for vertebrates at Fort Larned National Historic Site of the southern plains network. Natural Heritage Inventory, Kansas Biological Survey, Lawrence. 61pp.
2004 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the KHS 2004 fall feld trip . Journal of Kansas Herpetology (12):15-16
2005 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the KHS 2005 fall field trip [to Crawford County]. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (16):19-21
2006 Fitch, Henry Sheldon. Gopher snakes, bullsnakes and pine snakes. Journal of Herpetology (17):16-17
2006 Taggart, Travis W. Addendum report to biological inventory of the sandsage prairie near Holcomb, Kansas. Sunflower Electric Cooperative, Hays, Kansas. 31pp.
2006 Taggart, Travis W. Distribution and status of Kansas herpetofauna in need of information. State Wildlife Grant T7. Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Pratt. vii + 106pp.
2007 Taggart, Travis W. A biological inventory of the Sunflower Electric Site near Holcomb, Kansas. Journal of Kansas Herpetology 23():11-16
2007 Taggart, Travis W., Joseph T. Collins, and Curtis J. Schmidt. Estimates of amphibian, reptile, and turtle mortality if Phostoxin is applied to 10,000 acres of prairie dog burrows in Logan County, Kansas. Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Pratt. 5pp.
2008 Taggart, Travis W. KHS 2008 spring field trip. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (25):2-3
2010 Miller, Larry L. 2010 Investigation of the Checkered Garter Snake in Kansas with notes on other Amphibians, Reptiles, and Turtles encountered. Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Pratt, Kansas. 31pp.
2012 Rohweder, Megan R. Spatial conservation prioritization of Kansas for terrestrial vertebrates. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 151pp.
2014 Helms, Clinton Nest Survival of Grassland Breeding Birds in a Southern Mixed-Grass Prairie Wetland. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 100pp.
2015 Brown, Kasandra A. Occupancy Modeling Of Herpetofauna And Grassland Nesting Birds At Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 72pp.
2016 Pittman, Galen L., Henry S. Fitch, and W. Dean Kettle Vertebrate animals on the Fitch Natural History Reservation (1948-2002) Kansas Biological Survey Report Number 188, Lawrence. 48pp.
2019 Riedle, Daren. The truth about snakes. Kansas Wildlife and Parks Magazine July/August():18-21
Account Last Updated:
7/29/2019 1:41:58 PM


Travis W. Taggart © 2020 — Sternberg Museum of Natural History, Fort Hays State University