This gopher snake is doing her part in keeping down the rodents. This photo was taken recently in the Fern Lodge area of Big Santa Anita Canyon. Snakes of all kinds abound, mostly non-venemous. All snakes are by nature, secretive, preferring to not be seen. Unfortunately, gopher snakes are occasionally mistaken for rattlesnakes. However, this snake, like most, is harmless to people. Gopher snakes seek out mice, rats, frogs and occasionally ground squirrels. This snake is also a mortal enemy to rattlesnakes.
Like king snakes, gopher snakes take their prey through constriction, swallowing their catch whole. This is done by the snake purposely dislocating its’ jaws, allowing larger prey to pass on through to the esophagus and stomach. Gopher snakes can grown upwards of 4′ in length, climbing through rocks and even occasionally up a tree! My wife and I once watched a 3 footer climb up the side of a mature canyon live oak at the trail junction of the Upper Falls and Gabrielino trails. It was amazing to watch it slowly and carefully work it’s way up the steeply sloping trunk. These are patient creatures to say the least! If you are lucky enough to spot one, give him or her a little space.