Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Pituophis catenifer annectens, San Diego Gopher Snake, San Diego, California. This little guy was hunting squirrel or maybe mouse under the decking. I suppose that they're low-cost, all-organic rodent control. They're not poisonous; they kill their prey by constriction similar to the Rat snake and the King Snake. It does make you wonder just how much wildlife is in that back yard anyhow! I suspect that my little bird feeder and the bountiful dropped seed from it have spawned a whole little ecosystem that would otherwise not be there. So far, I have seen multiple species of birds that otherwise would not be here, squirrels and three kinds of snakes as well as a hawk that is staking out the song birds at the feeder. It's all a small lesson in biological food cycles from the bottom to the top. So far, the coyotes have not moved in yet (whew) but they stop by every now and then too.
Meanwhile, if you happen to see one, remember that Gopher Snakes have figured out how to whip the tip of their tale back and forth rapidly to create a buzzing sound that seems to mimic (somewhat) a rattler. It is a buzz rather than a rattle but close enough to make you wary. They have kind of a "wanna-be venemous" look. They will coil and strike as if they were a rattler as well to scare off would be predators. However, most times they will retreat(and are quite fast about it). Unfortunately, this bit of rattlesnake mimicry results in their being needlessly killed by people who mistake them for rattlers. Remember that next time you get a mouse infestation in the house.
They live on small mammals (mice, rats, gophers, ground squirrels), lizards and birds and are, as snakes go, decent critters to have in the neighborhood. You can read more about San Diego Gopher Snakes at California Herps!