Grow Up, Snake!

Transient – a snake passing through the yard, my ‘fear’ of said snake, the snakes skin.

I have to say at the outset that I don’t really like snakes all that much. Not big snakes, for sure. (A snake always looks bigger than it really is, by the way.) So the first time I saw a ‘pretty big’ snake in my yard in Arizona, I was a bit ‘freaked’ out. It looked suspiciously like a Rattlesnake… Fortunately, our local Fire Department comes running when you call and ask for their Snake Removal assistance. I think they would rather deal with a snake than with a snake bite.

The snake turned out to be a Gopher (or Bull) Snake. From a safe distance, Gopher snakes and Rattlesnakes resemble each other – they have the same sort of markings and colors.

A stretched out Gopher Snake – about 3 ft (1 metre) long.

When I’d calmed down, and took a closer look, I saw how the Gopher Snake differed from a Rattlesnake.

round pupils

Gopher Snake head – no facial pit, and round pupils distinguish the gopher snake from the rattlesnake.

Both snakes can be a bit short-tempered. The Gopher Snake will rise to a striking position, flatten its head into a triangular shape, hiss loudly and shake its tail at intruders. The ruse works very well if the snake also happens to have it’s tail hidden in tall dry grass.

tapered tail

Gopher Snake – tapered tail, no rattles

After this particular snake had slithered off, The Car Guy discovered that it had left it’s skin behind. ‘Love the Skin You’re In’ only works for a month or so for a snake, then they discard it for a nice new one so that they can grow larger.

Here is the skin – each scale sparkled in the bright sunlight. Quite beautiful.

Snake Stories
Common Name: Gopher Snake or Bull Snake
Scientific Name: Pituophis
Description: The top of the snake is tan, cream, yellow, orange-brown, or pale gray, with a series of large dark brown or black blotches, with smaller dark spots on the sides. They can reach 9 feet (275 cm) in length, but 4 feet (120 cm) is more common.
Native to: from the Atlantic to Pacific oceans, as far north as southern Canada, and as far south as Veracruz and southern Sinaloa, Mexico, including Baja California.
Date Seen: April 28, 2017
Location: North of Fountain Hills, Arizona
Comments: This is a powerful constrictor that preys on a wide variety of animals including rats, mice, rabbits, lizards, birds, snakes, eggs, and insects. It hibernates during the cold months of late fall and winter.

Have you ever found a snake skin? Did you know that humans shed their entire outer layer of skin every 2-4 weeks at the rate of 0.001 – 0.003 ounces of skin flakes every hour?

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is Transient.

Post 578

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27 thoughts on “Grow Up, Snake!

  1. I’m not a snake fan and I’d be just as happy not to encounter one – harmless or otherwise. But this was really interesting. That’s one clever dude to imitate a much scarier snake. It seems that poseurs exist even in the animal world 🙂
    btw – GREAT photos!

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    • We don’t see snakes at the Arizona house very often because they are hibernating most of the time we are there!
      Glad you liked the photos! I cheated a bit – my camera has an excellent zoom lens, so I didn’t have to get very close to the snakes at all!

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  2. So how in the world (or how in evolution) did the gopher snake come to impersonate a rattlesnake? That kind of stuff fascinates me!
    One way to look at snakes, they’re excellent at removing mice and other unwanted vermin from your house. Or would you rather not think of that? 😉

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    • Perhaps snakes that look like rattlers would be safer from predators, which would be beneficial in the long term. But that doesn’t explain how gopher snakes figured that out!. Apparently they hiss quite loudly too, and it sounds much like a rattle.

      Interesting that you should mention the benefit of having a snake in the yard. I had hoped it would keep the pack rat population under control. However, one pack rat managed to get into our house last month, after we had closed the house up for the summer. The property manager found it dead in a decorative gourd in the living room. It looks like the rat ate a sticky scorpion trap which somehow caused it to perish. Needless to say, the property manager has figured how the rat got in, and that shouldn’t happen again!

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  3. My husband hates snakes so when a baby garter snake wiggled into his garage and under the bookcase last summer, he was NOT impressed. I convinced him to leave it alone and it eventually left; since then, we’ve seen quite a few around the property and in the woods and he’s learning to appreciate them. Hopefully we won’t have anything bigger turn up. I do find it fascinating that gopher snakes know how to impersonate rattlers – animals are a lot smarter than we give them credit for.

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    • I never see snakes at our Alberta home, but garter snakes would likely be the only ones that live in our area. Alberta’s only venomous snake is the Rattlesnake, but it lives in the south east part of the province.

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  4. Your pictures are excellent! Very pretty snake! I came across one last week too. He was headed for the highway, and was crossing a small road and got very unhappy with me when I turned him around to keep him safe. He put on a very good show, but I think I was able to save his life.!

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  5. As kids, my brother and I had a garter snake in a huge box in the house (my dad brought it home from work). It was all good till the snake disappeared from the box and only left his shed skin. When we found him a few days later behind the couch, my mom, decreed that the snake had to go back outside.
    I have one observation in telling the difference between a rattler and a bull snake when it comes to their eyes….how close must you get to actually see the difference? LOL. I don’t think I want to get that close!!

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  6. I am always amused by the snake experts who tell us to differentiate a venomous from non-venomous snake by examining the eyes: venomous = elliptical; non-venomous = round. If you are close enough to determine the shape of the eyes, it’s a bit too late.

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    • Yes, The Car Guy found the skin just a few minutes after we saw the snake and it had slithered away. Don’t you wish our facial scrubs were that effective!?

      Facial scrubs – that reminds me of the time we floated in the Dead Sea (Jordan) for a few hours. After we got out and washed the salt off, our skin felt wonderful!

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  7. Enjoyed the great close-ups of the snake skin. I always welcome the presence of a bull snake near my house in New Mexico–seems like I don’t see as many rattlesnakes then–they don’t like to share the same area. I saw a 4-foot bull snake outside my house a few days ago, slithering beneath an elevated planter box on the ground. I followed and it headed for a pile of lumber, where a packrat had made its home last year. Circle of life, I guess…

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    • I have to admit that the first time I saw a Bull Snake in Arizona, my heart started to race and I couldn’t back away fast enough! Snakes of that size are just not something I grew up with in Alberta!

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    • There are some things in life that we learn to fear – snakes and spiders top the list, I suppose. That’s the only way I can explain my natural reluctance to interface with either of them!

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