Helpful and harmless creature
Kathy Nelson took this photo at her home in Sand Canyon of a Gophersnake as it was passing through.
These non-venomous constrictors feed primarily on small rodents, like mice, gophers, rats, and small rabbits, as well as on bird eggs, etc. They will also occasionally eat large insects or lizards.
The Tehachapi Mountains are considered an intergrade area where two different subspecies of Gophersnake tend to breed with each other: the Great Basin Gophersnake and the Pacific Gophersnake. The two subspecies are very similar.
Gophersnakes can do a pretty good imitation of a rattlesnake when they feel threatened, vibrating their tail rapidly, coiling back and hissing loudly, This can be effective in scaring away potential animal predators, but can also bring disaster around those humans who can’t tell the difference, and decide to kill the unfortunate Gophersnake.
Kathy was conscientious enough to leave this Gophersnake alone and allow it to continue on its way undisturbed. Gophersnakes are one of the most frequently encountered snakes in the Tehachapi Mountains, and they can be found from arid areas in the east toward the desert, as well as in higher, more wooded elevations and in mostly open grasslands.
These snakes are often active during the day and on warm nights, and are sadly one of the most common snakes found as roadkill, with their strong, ropey, sinuous bodies reduced to raven food.
In addition to being predators, Gophersnakes are also prey themselves, and are at risk of being predated by hawks, owls, eagles, California Kingsnakes, coyotes, etc.
The Nuwä (Kawaiisu or Southern 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. 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.