Pine Snake

Bull Snake

Gopher Snake 

Mexican Pine Snake 




last changes: Sunday, January 06, 2008

Genus Pituophis.

Distribution map

In the German language the word bull snake is used for all of the members of the genus Pituophis

In America the following groups of the Pituophis are seperated:

 Pine Snakes

Distribution map

 Bull Snake

Distribution map

  Gopher Snakes

Distribution map

  Mexican Pine Snakes

Distribution map [ 1 ] [ 2 ]

Here I use the american words Pine-, Bull- + Gopher Snakes.

But not every author and every language use the same names for those snakes. So the only sure name for an animal is it's sientific name, in latin.The genus Pituophis had it's first discripion by Holbrook, 1842 with the Pituophis melanoleucus melanoleucus, the northern pine snake.

The name Pituophis most authors adapted of the latin words pituitarius= "hissing" und ophis = "snake".

The genus has at this time (aprox.) 19 subspecies in 5 species, wich were distributed in a great part of North America.

The systematic of the genus Pituophis is overworked several times and it's actual status is changing nearly every year. And because of the use of different modern methods not all sientists get the same solutions or agree the dates of the colleges.

And not every systematic change finds it's way into our terrariums...

Long years the species melanoleucus and catenifer were seperated from each other. In the begin of the 2nd half of the 20. Century the subspecies of the the genus catenifer were transfered to the genus melanoleucus. Today those both species are seperated again. Furthermore there are the species ruthveni, deppei und lineaticollis.

One of the latest and important great works about this genus is:(Rodriguez, 2000): Molecular Systematics of New World Gopher, Bull, and Pinesnakes (Pituophis: Colubridae), a Transcontinental Species Complex.

I thank for the publication of this important work in the internet! One of the renew details in there were, that the subspecies ruthveni became the genus Pituophis ruthveni. This opinion is followed by most of the sientistis. The bull snake now ist too in the EMBL-Datenbank transfered to the genus catenifer. Some authors gave it a species status, mut not many (international) sientists agree. (Grismer, 1997) removed the status of a subspecies of bimaris (from the Baja California) and put them all as an color variant to the vertebralis. Furthermore the island form insulanus he set on species status.

But, too, those both changes are still in an international discussion...

For the systematic of the genus Pituophis I use on my homepage the actual EMBL-Datenbank. This source should give the sure actual status of the species and subspecies.


 The genus Pituophis lives in America from southtern Canada down to Guatemala. In the USA and in Mexico you can find them on some islands near the coast.


 Those snakes are often heavybold animals, wich can grow in extreme up to 2,75m. Over the back it has 27-37 scale rows.Several of the subspecies have dark saddle spots, other have longitudinal stripes or are unicolored. The color palette is very great, from nearly white over yellow, orange, brown a.s.o. to black. On the head there is often a black stripe between the angles of the mouth over the eyes.

Like the latin name describe this snake hisses in danger or fear very loudly and can be heard in several meter distance. The hissing sound is enlarged, when the snake breath out and the air passes the little flap in front oft the epiglottis, the epiglotte. Meantime they vibrate with the tail on the ground soil, what regulary can be misstaken as the rattling of a rattlesnake.

The scales are keeled. In the scaling of the head the number of prefrontalis, the scales in front of the eyes, can be taken for differencing the mexican pinesnakes from the otheres.


 The Pituophis live in many areas from the coasts up to mountain landscape in elevation of nearly 3000m, from deserts to woods. Moist areas they inhabit seldom.

Way of life

The Pituophis are mostly durinal. But if the daily summer temperatures become to hot, they transfer their activity period into the dawn and the first night hours. A lot of their time they live in rodents tunnels. They can climb fairly good, but most of them cimb only for searching food. There they hunt birds and eat their eggs, too.


 The Pituophis eat a lot of rodents and so they help the farmers. Many Pituophis prefer gopher rats. Most of them eat birds and their eggs. Young snakes sometimes eat lizards and seldomly insects.


 In adaption to the distribution area the snakes make a more or less long hibernaton. In more nothern and higher areas up to 5 month, in the southern and lowland they hibernate mostly aprox. 2 month.


After the hibernation and the first food the mating season begins. Then the males can smell the femals because of the pheromons wich they produce f.e. in the neck regionungs. Comment fights between the males were visited often in spring. After the mating the eggs grow in the female. 6 weeks later or more the femals has it's pre egglaying shed and 1-10 days later they lay the clutch into rodent tunnels, under stones, fallen wood a.s.o. Sometimes it take human places like waste areas or rotten pants.

In August/September the young snakes hatch. Then they have a lengh of 25 bis 50 cm. The coloration is mostly similar to their parents.

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