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Common Bullsnake

Pituophis catenifer sayi

Description:

The body a bullsnake is beige or yellow in color with black or brown blotches. These blotches become rings when they reach the tail. The snake’s underside is pale yellow.

Size:

Bullsnakes range from 3 to 6 feet (0.9-1.8m) in length.

Adaptations:

  • A bullsnake’s pointed head is the perfect shape to burrow through the loose sand or dirt in which it lives.
  • This snake’s coloration provides it with excellent camouflage in its habitat.
  • The bullsnake is non-venomous and kills its prey by strangulation. However, it does also have the ability to inflict a painful bite.
  • When threatened, a bullsnake can mimic a venomous rattlesnake by puffing up its body, shaking its tail, and hissing.

Diet:

In the wild, bullsnakes primarily eat large mice, gophers, and other small mammals. Birds, eggs, frogs, and lizards make up a smaller part of the diet. At Cosley Zoo, the bullsnake eats mice and chicken. It is not fed live prey.

Reproduction:

Bullsnakes are oviparous (egg-layers). Mating occurs in March and April once the snakes emerge from their winter dormancy. During June and July, a clutch of 5-19 leathery eggs is laid in loose soil. Females abandon the nests soon after they lay the eggs, and multiple females may lay their eggs at the same site. The hatchlings emerge in early autumn after an incubation period of approximately 50 to 80 days.

Shelter and space needs:

Bullsnakes favor open prairies and grassy meadows bordered by woodlands. They prefer sandy soil that they can burrow into easily. They are also able to climb and can sometimes be found in trees. In the winter, bullsnakes congregate with other snakes in burrows or rock crevices and go into a state of winter dormancy until early spring.

Life expectancy:

Unknown.

Relationship with man:

Bullsnakes are beneficial to humans because they eat large quantities of mice, gophers, and other small mammals. They frequently control populations of prairie dog towns and other burrowing animal systems.

Fun Facts:

  • The entire body of a snake is covered with scales – even its eyes! Because of this, snakes have no eyelids and cannot blink or close their eyes.
  • Why is that snake sticking out its tongue? To smell! The forked ends of the tongue fit into two holes in the snake’s mouth that are part of Jacobson’s organ. This organ transmits information about the smell to the brain.
  • Although many people think that snakes are slimy, their scales actually feel dry. Snakes have diamond-shaped scales on the top of their body, and long skinny scales called scutes on their undersides.
  • Most snakes do not eat every day. The snakes at Cosley Zoo eat only once a week. Snakes such as anacondas that prey on larger animals may have the ability to go several months between meals.
Common Bullsnake
Return to Species List

Photo Credit: Psyon, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Bobcat photo at top of page by Edward Durbin 

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