These non-venomous snakes are popular with farmers because they consume crop-damaging rodents.
During the spring mating season, male gopher snakes “wrestle” on the ground, entwined from neck to tail, hissing frequently. These bouts, which may last up to an hour, have been mistaken for courtship displays between male and female. The wrestling matches seem to be a means of determining which snake will mate afterward. The male is also aggressive during courtship with the female, biting her by the neck. Six weeks after mating, females lay two to 24 eggs, which are stuck together with a glue-like substance. Fully-developed hatchlings large enough to eat small mice, emerge within 10 weeks. The subspecies on view at the Zoo is the San Diego gopher snake, the local subspecies found in Griffith Park.When threatened, the snake will rise up, flatten its head into a triangular shape, shake its tail, and hiss loudly. The hiss is produced by an organ in its mouth, the glottis, which opens and closes rapidly, producing a sound like the rattle of a rattlesnake. In turn, the gopher snake is often mistaken for a rattlesnake by a predator that then retreats.Life span averages 16 years in the wild.
One of the most widespread snakes in North America, the gopher snake’s range extends from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific, and into southern Canada and Baja California, Mexico. These snakes are found in deserts, prairies, brush lands, woodlands, coniferous forests, and farmlands.
Gopher snakes hunt rodents, rabbits, lizards, birds, eggs, and occasionally other snakes, usually locating prey with their sense of smell. They kill their meals by constriction and suffocation. This slow-moving snake investigates burrows and rocky crevices and even climbs trees in search of food.
The California kingsnake varies somewhat in its color scheme, depending on the area in which it lives. It will generally have a white or yellow body with thick black or brown bands along its back, in some southern populations it may only have a single yellow or white vertebral stripe.