Tony and Kim Vespa submitted this photo taken at their home above Tehachapi Creek of a young Gophersnake climbing the corner of a stucco-covered wall.

Gophersnakes (Pituophis catenifer) are probably the most common snakes in the Tehachapi Mountains. These non-venomous constrictors consume lots of rodents during their active period in the warmer months, generally from March or April through September and October.

Tony and Kim were impressed at this young snake's climbing ability as it managed to make its way up an outside corner of their home, which is in an outlying area with lots of wildlife.

There are two subspecies of Gophersnake that often interbreed in the Tehachapi Mountains, and most of those found here are considered intergrades between the Pacific Gophersnake (Pituophis catenifer catenifer) and the Great Basin Gophersnake (Pituophis catenifer deserticola).

Gophersnakes are in the class of smaller predators that are both predator and prey. In addition to eating primarily rodents, as well as eggs, birds, lizards and insects on occasion, Gophersnakes themselves fall prey to hawks, kingsnakes, coyotes, foxes, owls and other larger predators.

Gophersnakes also suffer from being confused for venomous rattlesnakes, which leads to many of these harmless and beneficial reptiles to being killed by misguided humans. Gophersnakes are typically the most frequent road-killed snake found on Kern County highways.

Gophersnakes sometimes do imitate rattlesnakes when alarmed, vibrating their tails rapidly and hissing loudly — their epiglottis is specially configured to amplify the sound of their hiss when they force air out of their mouth.

The Nuwä (Kawaiisu or Paiute) word for Gophersnake is kogo.

NATURAL SIGHTINGS is a regular feature of the Tehachapi News edited by Jon Hammond which showcases photos of the natural beauty that enhances the quality of life in Tehachapi. If you have a good quality image of plants, animals, insects, trees, birds, weather phenomena, etc., taken in the Tehachapi area, you may submit it to the Tehachapi News for possible publication. Submissions can be dropped by the News office in the form of a print or CD, or sent by email to: editorial@tehachapinews.com.