VIEWS: 33 PAGES: 1 CATEGORY: Academic Papers POSTED ON: 8/17/2012
Clark, H.O., Jr. 2012. Rattlesnake mimicry in the Pacific Gopher Snake (Pituophis catenifer catenifer). Sonoran Herpetologist 25(8):78.
N AT U R A L H I S TO RY N OT E Rattlesnake Mimicry in the Pacific Gopher Snake (Pituophis catenifer catenifer) Howard O. Clark, Jr., Senior Widlife Ecologist, H. T. Harvey & Associates, Fresno, California 93711; email@example.com Mimicry of israttlesnakes by gopher snakes well known (Bezy 1993, Sweet 1985), how- ever there are times where the mimicry is so well done that a double-take is necessary to tell the two species apart. On the evening of 25 May 2012, I was driving home from work on a highway that bisects habitat occupied by both the Pacific Gopher Snake (Pituophis catenifer catenifer) and the Western Rattlesnake (Cro- talus oreganus). Oftentimes I see both species stretched out on the pavement in the evenings absorbing the released heat. I pull over to examine these Mimicry of snakes and remove them from the road to prevent vehicle strikes. At approximately Figure 1. Pacific Gopher Snake (Pituophis catenifer catenifer) rattlesnakes by mimicking a rattlesnake. Photo by Howard Clark. 1845 I observed a snake on State Route 33 in Kings gopher snakes County, CA (at mile marker 4.0), that at first glance ap- species commonly confused for one another. Although peared to be a gopher snake. I turned around to exam- the details remain unclear, confusion of a krait with its is well known ine it closer. Using a wooden stick, I moved the snake mimic may have been the cause of the bite that led to (Bezy 1993, off the highway onto the shoulder (Figure 1). I was the death of a noted herpetologist (James 2008). a bit surprised to see something that looked remark- Sweet 1985), ably like a rattlesnake. It had a triangle-shaped head Literature Cited however there and was striking at me like a viper would from a coiled position. I took some photos and continued home. Bezy, R.L. 1993. Southland Diorama: The Gopher are times where Snake. Terra 31:40-41. Once I downloaded the photos I decided to send my James, J. 2008. The Snake Charmer: A Life and Death the mimicry is so best photo to the editor of Herpetological Review, Robert Hansen. He said it was definitely a gopher snake and in the Persuit of Knowledge. Hyperion. 272 pages. well done that Sweet, S.S. 1985. Geographic Variation, Convergent my photo illustrated very well what they do best: Crypsis and Mimicry in Gopher Snakes (Pituophis a double-take is behavioral mimicry of vipers. I was impressed with this particular snake in its ability to shape its head to melanoleucus) and Western Rattlesnakes (Crotalus necessary to tell viridis). Journal of Herpetology 19:55-67. resemble a rattlesnake. I’ve seen gopher snakes mimic the two species rattlersnakes before but the head always appeared narrow. This particular snake apart. did not rattle its tail but did vigorously strike at me from a coiled position. Rattlesnakes are very easy to rec- ognize due to their thick body, large triangular-shaped head, and the rattle on the tail tip (Figure 2). When I see a rattlesnake in the field I recognize it im- mediately with little question. However, this was the first time I was fooled by a gopher snake in thinking it was a rattle- snake. The take home message: exercise caution when dealing with mimics and Figure 2. Western Rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus) from the Carrizo Plain, San Luis Obispo County, CA. Photo by Howard Clark. SONORAN HERPETOLOGIST 25 (8) 2012 78
"Clark, H.O., Jr. 2012. Rattlesnake mimicry in the Pacific Gopher Snake (Pituophis catenifer catenifer). Sonoran Herpetologist 25(8):78"