A Pacific Gopher Snake care guide is what you need to go through if you intend to keep this species as a pet. As fascinating as it may sound, keeping snakes as pets is not an easy task – especially because these reptiles demand a great deal of attention when kept in captivity.
The practice of keeping snakes as pets is becoming popular by the day; and the fact that several species of non-venomous snakes are being captive bred by breeders for this very purpose backs this statement very well. In the list of snake species popular as pets, one oft-featuring name happens to be the Pacific Gopher Snake (Pituophis catenifer catenifer) – a gopher snake species native to the western coast of the United States. Even though it is not an ideal pet for beginners – mainly because of its large size and seemingly aggressive behavior, it is known to do well when properly taken care of.
Pacific Gopher Snake Information
On an average, a full-grown Pacific Gopher Snake measures around 4-5ft in length. However, individuals measuring approximately 3ft or somewhere around 7ft are not that rare as such. The skin color in this species ranges from typical yellow to dark brown – with gray sides and dark brown spots all over their body. Even though the species is diurnal in nature – i.e., it is active throughout the day, it does demonstrate nocturnal behavior at times. The Pacific Gopher Snakes are quite popular for the amazing behavioral adaptations which they resort to for survival. When threatened, this snake makes loud hissing noise, inflates its body, flattens its head and shakes its tail vigorously in such a manner that it appears to be quite fearful – even though it is not. This behavior – along with the appearance of the Pacific Gopher Snake, often leads it to be confused with the rattlesnake.
Pacific Gopher Snake Care
Even though the Pacific Gopher Snake adaptations may make it seem quite dangerous, the species is actually known to be quite docile in nature. In fact, the ability of this snake species to adapt to a new environment with utmost ease makes it one of the most popular pet snake species in the world. The chances are that your Pacific Gopher may become a bit hostile when you try to hold it initially, however, the hostile behavior will fade of with time as it will get used to your touch. That being said, the onus is on you to do your bit by making sure that you provide your pet gopher snake with everything it requires in captivity.
The Pacific Gopher Snake species requires a spacious aquarium equipped with a store-bought climbing tree or log for the species to climb, and a layer of substrate deep enough for it to burrow. Climbing activity is the best exercise for pet snakes, and if they are not subjected to enough of exercise it is bound to cause some severe health problems for them. Most important of all, you need to make sure that the captive habitat of your pet is clean, as unhygienic conditions are known to cause health problems in this species.
The ideal temperature of the Pacific Gopher Snake habitat in captivity would be 70-85°F. More importantly, the source of light should be placed in such a manner that a temperature gradient is created within the aquarium. This will help your pet snake choose the temperature on their own. This practice of providing a temperature gradient within the aquarium is not just ideal the Pacific Gopher Snake species, but is also ideal for other species of pet snakes.
In wild, the Pacific Gopher Snake is usually found in semi-arid conditions with very little moisture in the air – which means you won’t have to worry about maintaining the moisture levels within the aquarium. A bowl of water in the aquarium will be sufficient to keep issues like dehydration at bay. When the snake is shedding though, you will have to make sure that ideal moisture levels are maintained. You may even have to spray water in the aquarium to make sure that the environment is moist.
Even though the Pacific Gopher Snake is known to feed on a range of small mammals in its natural habitat, in captivity mice will be best bet for your pet. Other than that, once in a while a frozen chick or quail will do as a treat. If the species regurgitates its meal, you should allow it to rest for two weeks or so before feeding it again; and even when you start feeding it again, you need to make sure you start off with small meals before graduating to routine meal.
Handling your pet snake once in a while is not at all a bad idea, especially because it will help the species get along with you. At the same time, you can also check the well-being of your pet by looking out for tell-tale signs – such as tongue flickering and actively moving around, which show that it’s healthy. On the other hand, a dull behavior is a sign of something being wrong with your pet snake, and that is something which would require a visit to the veterinarian.
Many people complain that their Pacific Gopher Snake is quite aggressive in nature, and get offended when they try to handle it. However, the fact is that what is deemed to be offensive behavior by people – loud hissing and shaking of its tail to be precise, is actually a defensive behavioral adaptation of this species. In the wild, this behavior helps the snake ward off its predators who assume that it is a rattlesnake. This behavior adaptation continues in captivity as well, and the chances of same are more if the snake is not used to handling. In such circumstances, a better way out is to opt for Pacific Gopher Snake which has been captive bred from a reputed breeder when keeping one as a pet.
PS: Never keep a snake which has been caught in the wild as a pet – even if the individuals belonging to this species are known to make ideal pets, as these snakes are known to carry various pathogens on their body.