last changes: Sunday, January 06, 2008

Keeping and Breeding of the Cape Gopher Snake

Pituophis catenifer vertebralis

1,0 vertebralis, CB, 8 years old


Keeping and Behavior

0,1 vertebralis, Schulz-CB 1998



1,0 vertebralis my CB 2003

The beautiful cape gopher snake is for an beginner of snake keeping not so ideal, because of it’s lower temperatur needings and stress danger. Both can sometimes lead to food denied or reguriation. If the temperatures are low enough and it feels secure again, you can start again with feeding gently. But if the problems were repeat, you quick have a case for the vetenarian.

Adult vertebralis are normaly slender and grow seldom to more than 1,5m. But I saw animals of 1,8m too. Those big animals mostly are males. They smaller ones need a medium sized terrarium with some good hiding places and, if possible, a climbing branch. My adults never took a bath, so I give them only a drinking bowl.

The preferd temperatures of the vertebralis are aprox. 25-max.27°C. Higher temperatures they like only for a warming up.

The animals can live with other species normaly without problems – but it must! be stress free. If they are feary and bite in the beginning, they normaly calm down in the next weeks. Good hidingplaces make this easier to the snake.


Because of it’s size my animals mostly get mice. They, too, like chicks and rats, but not all are great enough to eat them. They mostly eat alive mice, thawned frost food the often don’t eat.


You should offer them a 2-3month long hibernation periode at 5-15°C.

It is helpful for the fathering ability, but not always necesary. After 4 weeks brunation my female got fertil clutches, too. In one case the vertebralis of a college hibernates 2 month in it’s coverd waterbowl in the terrarium.

Reproduction and Breeding

After the hibernation the snakes eat some times and they get in mating mood. After the succsessful mating the eggs grow for 6-8 weeks in the body of the female. Some days after the pre egg laying shed it lay a cluch of 4-10 eggs (literatur). From my (small) female I know clutches of 3-5 eggs. And a friend of mine had an huge female that laid up to 14 eggs.

Maturity and Lifespan

Depending on amount of food and the biological possibilitis of the animals the maturity begins seldom in the 2. year. More often they mature in the 3rd or 4th year. My animal laid his first eggs in the 4. year.

In normal cases the snakes become aprox. 13-15 years ore a little more.

Young Snakes

After hatching the small vertebralis have a lenght of 30 to 48 cm. For a member of the genus Pituophis it is very gracil and slender. The coloration is sometimes pale for a vertebralis and resembles a colour poor variant of the adults. Seldomly the orange and red markings are good developed in youth. In the second year they become much colourful.

The first food of my snakes are very young mice. Non feeders are possible and need an intensive care. Some animals never took defrosted mice, and stay hungry, til again live food were presented.

The further keeping can be without problems, when you keep the animal stress poor and the temperatures don’t get too high. The growth rate is very individualy. Some of them can eat a lot of food and grow quickly. Other eat less and so they grow slowlier.

After a day on a reptile fair sometimes those animals stop feeding for a while. When they feel sure and „relaxed“, they begin to eat again.

My Snakes

Now I have only 2 males of this ssp. and I am searching for a female.

Biology in Habitat

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