WORLD PITUOPHIS WEB PAGE BY PATRICK H. BRIGGS

GOPHER SNAKES, PINE SNAKES & BULL SNAKES

 THE SAN DIEGO GOPHER SNAKE (Baird and Girard, 1853)

 

 

 Pituophis catenifer annectens  right lateral head study by Patrick H. Briggs 

This was a wild snake caught at the Cuesta College hills in San Luis Obisbo County.

 

 

 

 San Diego Gopher snake 

Pituophis catenifer annectens

By Patrick H. Briggs

Description

 The San Diego Gopher snake Pituophis catenifer annectens is a race that because of its range, actually would be better called the Southwestern Coast Gopher snake. Indeed its range begins southerly 20 miles or more south of El  Rosario in Baja California, Mexico of the west coast extending northerly along the coast well past San Diego, California reaching even San Luis Obispo and barely touching Monterey Counties in California of the United States where it begins to intergrade in certain areas of this region with the Pacific Gopher Snake Pituophis catenifer catenifer. The further inland from the coast it occurs, the more southerly it seems to intergrade or be replaced altogether with the Pacific Gopher Snake. A specimen in one of the images below showing Bonnie Bair (Briggs)  holding up annectens was wild collected (WC) many years ago in San Luis Obispo county 320 miles north of San Diego. Another image can be found of the same female snake shown with sticks and stones and leafy flowers to display its complete vertebral markings of the body. Another snake photographed by Bill Bouton also shows a beautiful annectens from San Louis Obispo County, and an image photographed by John Sullivan clearly shows a San Diego subspecies from Monterey County California. 

Like all others from the genus Pituophis, the San Diego subspecies are harmless to humans, but are accomplished constrictors of smaller creaturesThe sub-specific epithet annectens in Latin means "to connect". This is appropriate for the race, because the anterior dorsal blotches of this ophidian often interconnect, fuse, or blend with each other and the lateral secondary spots and markings. Also the anterior markings are darker and bolder than those toward the mid-region of the snake. The neck ground color is usually a smudgy orange with a dark black pattern of touching spot markings, and in some individuals, it seems to be composed of nothing more than numerous dark round connecting spots. Generally, San Diego gopher snakes may be simply brown and black with some drabby grayish suffusion on a cream, straw, or buff body ground color. Others sport very beautiful tones of yellow and blending reds, rusts, or orange and varying shades of brown, tan, or cream dappled with black. These gopher snakes normally carry a blotched pattern above and 4-5 series of lateral spotting along each side, but striped individuals also occur. They are striking, so herp enthusiasts breed them for collectors. The pet trade also selectively breeds albinos, leusistics, axanthics, hypo and hypermelanistcs, and many other desired aberrations of color or pattern in these ophidians. The annectens subspecies of catenifer also has a tail proportionately longer than any other form of Pituophis (Stull 1940). 

Reproduction: 

Depending on such factors including weather, climate, altitude, and, locality, San Diego gopher snakes breed from about the end of February or beginning of March through April. Before mating, males occasionally are found wrapped length wise with other males in a ritual battle of dominance. When adult females and males come together, the male will pursue the female, come up on to her and begin massaging and flexing curves along the top of her body. He may also grasp her head or some part of her neck in his jaws for leverage, subsequently sliding the base of his tail underneath hers to stimulate her enough to allow copulation. Depending on whether she has or is about to ovulate will determine how soon she will  lay eggs. If she has already ovulated she may lay them as early as a month, but usually it is about 2 months after copulation that the eggs are deposited. The female will be visibly heavy towards her rear body region where the eggs are developing. Before laying eggs, she also will nearly always become darker for several days before lightening up again. Soon after she is back to normal color, she will pre-shed. A week or so after she sloughs her outer skin, she will deposit anywhere from a couple to as many as 29 eggs that sometimes appear tubular with round ends while others are oval or round. She may modify a burrow, utilize stumps and other wood debris, or she may lay them under large stones helping to maintain ideal temperatures (averaging around 80-85 degrees F.) that hold high humidity. The eggs usually hatch 2 months after oviposition which is from about July through October at around 15 inches in length (38 cm.) and grow from about 2.5 - 7 feet long (76 - 213 cm.

Habits:

The San Diego subspecies like most of the others is generally diurnal, but will become active at night when temperatures are high. They are good swimmers, climbers, and burrowers. Like most of this genus when it feels threatened, it will widen the back of the head, hiss with great force, rear up with half coils to strike, and shake its tail nervously for defensive intimidation.

Food:

The San Diego gopher snake is an accomplished constrictor right from birth. Even so, as an alternative method for killing within animal burrows, prey such as gophers is simply pressed against the walls. As young neonate snakes, they will at first search out lizards and young pinkish blind or slightly fuzzy mice. As they become larger, they will consume larger prey such as adults of smaller rodents including mice, voles, rats, and gophers, and they will also relish small birds or their eggs. Young featherless birds and hairless rodents are many times eaten alive without constriction. All prey items are eaten whole, and most of their prey is eaten head first with jaws moving in a side to side motion as if walking the prey into to the throat using tiny sharp curved teeth. Many times the snake will take its time to eat allowing enough moisture to help lubricate the way for food and allow the jaws to spread wide enough to accommodate whole prey items. Very large San Diego subspecies gopher snakes will also feed on the young of larger rodents such as rabbits.

Habitat: 

This sub-specific form is found in a variety of habitats including grasslands, coastal sage scrub, woodlands, rocky hills,  mountains, agricultural lands, riparian areas, and desert.

 

Conservation Status: Pituophis catenifer annectens has not been included on any Special Animals List and the Endangered and Threatened Animals List which are published by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, therefore it seems quite apparent that the state of California has no serious conservation concerns for this ophidian form.

Bob Applegate was not only one the key pioneers to developing consistent methods for breeding snakes for sale, but also selecting animals with desireable traits such as the beautiful aberrant patterns or morphs that we see today. Gopher snakes, milksnakes, and kingsnakes were some of his favorites. Lloyd Lemke who was also a pioneer, also developed incredible looking Pituophis, Tri-colors, and kingsnakes, but went further to breed magnificent boas, pythons, rat snakes, and many other species that were the predecessors of the captive bred animals that are seen in collections today. For more than a decade, I photographed hundreds of Lloyd and his wife Sonnie's reptiles on slides and prints.

 

Original Description:

Species: Pituophis catenifer - (Blainville, 1835) - Nouv. Ann. Mus. Hist. Nat. Paris, Vol. 4, p. 290, pl. 26, figs. 2-2b 

Subspecies: Pituophis catenifer annectens - Baird and Girard, 1853 - Cat. N. Amer. Rept., Pt. 1, p. 72 

 

Scutellation:

Midbody Scales            29-35 (usually 33)

Ventrals                       210-253

Caudals                         60-84

Frontal                          usually undivided but occasionally split partially

Prefrontals                   Usually 4, but occasionally 2 or if azygous scales are present and included, more than 4

Rostral                          Low and is as broad as long penetrating usually 1/3rd to the full distance between the internasals

Supralabials                  7-10 (usually 8 or 9) (the 4th, 5th, or none contacting the eye)

Infralabials                   11-15 (generally 12 or 13)

Preoculars                    1-3 (usually 2)

Postoculars                  3-5

Loreal                           Present and many times, separated into 2 or 3 scales

Azygos                         Often found between frontal and prefrontals between prefrontal and preocular of either side, or between 2 pairs of

                                     prefrontals, or behind the rostral.

(Many of these counts are from O. Stull 1940) Pituophis catenifer annectens can be distinguished from Pituophis catenifer catenifer by having the larger number of both ventral and caudal scales ( the total greater than 300) and by having more dorsal blotches (rarely less than 90 and generally more than a 100. 

 

Dentition:

Mandibular teeth 18-20 decreasing slightly in size toward the back.

Maxillary teeth 14-18 decreasing slightly in size posteriorly.

Palatines 9-10 somewhat smaller than both the mandibular maxillary teeth.

Pterygoids 8-14 slightly smaller than the palatines and progressively decreasing in size towards the rear.

  

 

Pituophis catenifer annectens, locality Ventura California, swallows a (namesake) gopher.

Digital Image By Patrick H. Briggs

 

This Botta's Pocket gopher Thomomys bottae challenges the threat by showing off his long sharp teeth. This individual was found in Corcoran, California. The several gopher snake races get their name from this tunnel digging rodent. They frequent the burrows and feed on the young or smaller individuals by either pressing them against the tunnel walls or by grasping in the mouth and utilizing body coils for constriction to subdue them.  

 

Photo by Patrick H. Briggs October 17, 2016 Courtesy Louis Benedetti 

 

Juvenile San Diego gopher snake from Ventura County California swallows small bird egg.

Digital By Patrick Briggs 

 

 Pituophis catenifer annectens from Ventura County in California laying eggs.

Image taken by Pat Briggs

 

Conservation Status: Pituophis catenifer annectens has not been included on any Special Animals List and the Endangered and Threatened Animals List which are published by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, therefore it seems quite apparent that the state of California has no serious conservation concerns for this ophidian form.

Bob Applegate was not only one the key pioneers to developing consistent methods for breeding snakes for sale, but also selecting animals with desireable traits such as the beautiful aberrant patterns or morphs that we see today. Gopher snakes, milksnakes, and kingsnakes were some of his favorites. Lloyd Lemke who was also a pioneer, also developed incredible looking Pituophis, Tri-colors, and kingsnakes, but went further to breed magnificent boas, pythons, rat snakes, and many other species that were the predecessors of the captive bred animals that are seen in collections today. For more than a decade, I photographed hundreds of Lloyd and his wife Sonnie's reptiles on slides and prints.

 

Original Description:

Species: Pituophis catenifer - (Blainville, 1835) - Nouv. Ann. Mus. Hist. Nat. Paris, Vol. 4, p. 290, pl. 26, figs. 2-2b
Subspecies: Pituophis catenifer annectens - Baird and Girard, 1853 - Cat. N. Amer. Rept., Pt. 1, p. 72 

 

 

Below is a close up rostral study facing head on of a wild Pituophis catenifer annectens female young adult from the San Bernadino Mountains.

Digital Photo by Patrick Houston Briggs July 14, 2014

 

 

Below is a close up study of the upper head on of a wild San Diego subspecies female young adult from the Deep Creek San Bernadino Mountains CA.

Digital Photo by Patrick Houston Briggs July 14, 2014

 

(Live Wild Specimen #2) 29.5 inch female from Deep Creek, CA of the San Bernadino Mnts.

October 2014 Digital Image By Pat Briggs Courtesy Jerry Hartley

 

 

 

 

 

 (Wild Specimen #3) 48 inch male Pituophis catenifer annectens from Deek Creek in the San Bernadino Mountains in California.

 Digital Image By Pat Briggs

 

 (Wild Specimen #1) A wild young adult female San Diego species gopher snake

 nearly 40" from Deep Creek, San Bernadino Mountains in California.

Monday-July 14, 2014 Digital photo image by Patrick Houston Briggs Courtesy to Jerry Hartley, the collector

Upper view of a wild young adult female San Diego species gopher snake from the San Bernadino Mountains in California.

Monday-July 14, 2014 Digital photo image by Patrick Houston Briggs Courtesy to Jerry Hartley, the collector

 

 

  Close up left side head study of the San Diego species gopher snake from the San Bernadino Mountains in California.

Monday-July 14, 2014 Digital photo image by Patrick Houston Briggs Courtesy to Jerry Hartley, the collector

 

 

 

 

Pituophis catenifer annectens 

May 14, 2013 North of Mike's Sky Rancho, Baja California, Mexico

Photo image by John Sullivan

 

 

 

 

Check out Gary Nafis' site

http://www.californiaherps.com/snakes/pages/p.c.annectens.html

http://www.herpcenter.com/field-herping/15854-2007-report-s-california-dial-up-warning.html 

 

San Diego Gopher snake (below from Ventura)

 Photo below by Patrick H. Briggs Courtesy Ventura College Biology Department (Wild-caught 25 years earlier in Ventura, CA)

 

 

 


San Diego gopher snake subspecies from Ventura, California (Arroyo Verde Park)

Photo by Patrick Houston Briggs

 

 

Habitat where the snake above was found in Arroyo Verde Park in Ventura, CA

 

 

 

 

 

SAN DIEGO GOPHER SNAKE or Vibora Sorda

Distribution: Pituophis catenifer annectens:

Extreme southern Monterey County CA, along the Pacific coast and Catalina Island to about 20 miles south of El Rosario in northern Baja California, Mexico

Type locality: San Diego, California 

 

Hatching Pituophis catenifer annectens from parents of Ventura California.

Computer scanned print image photographed by Patrick H. Briggs 

 

 

 

 

 

 Photo by Patrick H. Briggs

Pituophis catenifer annectens San Diego Gopher snake

An obese indivdual from San Diego Courtesy San Diego Museum of Natural History

 

Pituophis catenifer annectens

Photo by Patrick H. Briggs

A male adult San Diego Gopher snake from Ventura California (Arroyo Verde Park) 

Pituophis catenifer annectens (two-headed below)

 

A wild-caught two-headed  San Diego race Gopher snake from Santa Barbara California

 Photo by Patrick H. Briggs Courtesy Phil Brown of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History

 

Pituophis catenifer annectens

        Bonnie Mikelle (Briggs) Bair lifts up an adult female San Diego Gopher snake from the

         Cuesta College San Luis Obispo County Campus 320 miles north of San Diego California

Photo by Patrick H. Briggs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

San Diego Gopher snake

 

 Wild Collected (San Diego subspecies) Gopher snake from of San Luis Obispo County California

 Photo by Patrick H. Briggs

 

San Diego Gophersnake

Captive bred San Diego Gopher snake from selected color morphs of San Diego County

 Photo by Patrick H. Briggs Courtesy Lloyd Lemke 

 

Striped Pituophis catenifer annectens

San Diego Striped Gopher Snake

 Photo by Patrick H. Briggs Courtesy Lloyd Lemke 

 

 Discovered crawling near Silverwood Lake in San Bernadino County North-East of Los Angeles California

This wild individual's pattern shows intergadation of Pituophis catenifer annectens x deserticola 

Photo by Jon Siess 

!

Below is the San Diego Gopher snake from San Luis Obispo County-close to its northernmost range

 

 Photo below by Patrick H. Briggs

  Pituophis catenifer annectens San Diego Gopher snake from San Luis Obispo County collected as a young snake many years earlier with Sean and

Wendy McKeown in a creek at Cuesta College foothills (near its most northerly range of Monterey County which is north of the county it was actually collected)

 Below is another beautiful image of Pituophis catenifer annectens captured digitally in San Louis Obispo County March 10, 2013 by Bill Bouton

Here's another Pituophis catenifer annectens from Fort Ord Public Lands of its most northerly range of Monterey County, CA

Photo by John Sullivan

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pituophis catenifer annectens immature

 

 

The neonate female San Diego Gopher Snake below was collected from the intergrade zone of Pituophis catenifer catenifer

and Pituophis catenifer annectens in the foothills of San Luis Obispo County California by Patrick Briggs on

an excursion with herpetologist Sean McKeown and his wife Wendy as they searched for red-legged frogs.

The image above is the same snake as an adult many years later. She shows color markings and pattern of Pituophis catenifer annectens.

Photo by Patrick Briggs

 

 

San Diego Gopher snake (albino) Pituophis catenifer annectens

 Albino San Diego Gopher snake

 Photo by Patrick H. Briggs Courtesy Lloyd Lemke 

 

 

Lloyd Lemke with Patrick Briggs below

Pituophis catenifer annectens subadults

 

This subadult male below and the female above are San Diego Gopher Snakes found together in Ventura California where the Santa Clara River runs under the

Freeway 101. As both animals matured, they became a beautiful yellow-orange.

Photo by Patrick H. Briggs 

 

 

 

Pituophis catenifer annectens Baywood Park near Moro Bay California

 

 Pituophis catenifer annectens from Baywood Park, south of Moro Bay in California an area with intergrades of catenifer x annectens.

Photo by Patrick Briggs courtesy Sean McKeown 

 

San Diego Striped Gopher Snake

 

 Pituophis catenifer annectens (Striped Morph) 

Photo by Patrick H. Briggs Courtesy Lloyd Lemke

Below is an amelanistic Pituophis catenifer annectens  from Alan Stotton which he produced from Klumpers Euro Stock.

Bob Applegate and Patrick Briggs below

 

 

 

c

Cabazon, California San Diego race gopher snake: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jpmckenna/3378920999/

San Diego race gopher snake in Andrew Molera National Park, (Big Sur) California: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lynx38/7079428819/ 

 See the snake on the site: San Luis Obispo "Pacific form":

 

 As aforementioned, there are 2 to 3 rows of spots on the side of the Pacific Gopher Snake. However, the San Diego Gopher Snake (P. c. annectens) has 3 to 4 rows of smaller spots on their sides. The Pacific Gopher Snake's saddle spots do not have the barren characteristic as the San Diego Gopher Snakes do. Also, the second row of spots are much larger on P.c. catenifer compared to P.c. annectens. Finally, the Pacific Gopher Snake generally has more saddle spots than the San Diego Gopher Snake.[3]

 

 

 Below are 3 catenifer of two subspecies. The upper is catenifer annectens from San Luis Obispo County, the middle snake is catenifer catenifer from Kings County, and the lower snake is catenifer annectens from Ventura County. Images are from a slide by Patrick Briggs scanned to the computer and to this site.