Anne Marie Novinger took this photo at her home in the Tehachapi Valley of a Gophersnake crawling along a brick wall.
These harmless snakes are one of the most common types of snake found in the Tehachapi Mountains. There are two different subspecies of Gophersnake found in Kern County, and it is likely that many of them in the Tehachapi Mountains are intergrades of the two species: Great Basin Gophersnake (Pituophis catenifer deserticola) and the Pacific Gophersnake (Pituophis catenifer catenifer).
Gophersnakes eat primarily rodents, like mice, gophers, voles, young rabbits, etc., and occasionally lizards, eggs and nestlings. Gophersnakes themselves are prey for kingsnakes, raptors, roadrunners, coyotes and other predators.
Unfortunately for Gophersnakes, people often mistaken them for rattlesnakes, which they somewhat resemble, and kill these rodent-eating snakes as a result. Gophersnakes are also the reptile most commonly found as roadkill, as they will hunt alongside roadways or warm themselves on the asphalt.
When alarmed, Gophersnakes can make a loud defensive hiss and even vibrate their tails rapidly, which appears to be rattlesnake mimicry. However, their heads are narrow and not arrowhead-shaped like a rattlesnake, and their bodies tend to be longer and more slender. And as constrictors who kill their prey by squeezing it, they are definitely stronger than rattlesnakes — you would be highly unlikely to see a rattlesnake climbing a wall like this muscular Gophersnake.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.