May I introduce… the snake with all sizzle but very little snap?? 😜
The bull snake, also known as the gopher snake, is a rather hefty, formidable looking member of the North American constrictor family. With a potential length of 8 feet and a color pattern resembling a rattlesnake, this snake looks intimidating but has no venom. It constricts its prey instead. It gets his name by the loud raspy sounds it can make when startled, that sound like a snorting bull. As a slow moving constrictor, its defense relies on its coloration and rattlesnake-like posturing to mimic a rattlesnake, even shaking its tail in warning. However, it knows its limitations and will not strike unless threatened and unable to move away.
Bullsnakes have a home range of about 18 acres, and do a beautiful job of keeping their home free of mice, rats, and other rodents. Anything larger than potential food can be perceived by this slow mover as a threat, prompting its defensive positioning. But as soon as the threat moves away, the snake is happy to leave the scene as well. They are generally diurnal and are frequently killed while slowly crossing a road.
Though it is not recommended to get close enough to see the eyes of an unidentified snake, you will find round pupils on a bull snake, typical of a non venomous snake – not the elliptical or cat eye like a rattlesnake. However, it’s never a good idea to judge a snake based on only one characteristic or another when ID’ing a venomous snake. Many snakes can flatten or triangulate their heads, appearing venomous, and all members of the venomous Elapids family of snakes (i.e., coral, sea snakes, cobras, mambas) do have round pupils. Several snakes also shake their tails in warning, with or without a rattle. A bull snake will keep its tail low as it shakes, while a rattlesnake will raise its tail (and indeed, has a rattle 😜)
The bull snake is frequently misidentified as a rattlesnake due to its size, coloration, keeled scales, and behavior. However, it’s a farmer’s friend and an incredibly valuable member of the ecosystem as it removes rodents that can carry diseases.
We are very blessed to have a beautiful female in our rose garden, and we were thrilled to make her acquaintance!