Gopher Snake Near Sandpiper Golf Course

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Gopher Snake Near Sandpiper Golf Course
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By Robert Bernstein

For months my wife has been telling me about her sightings of snakes on Ellwood Mesa near our home. I go out there often and have been more vigilant to see them since she told me of her sightings. Believe it or not I did manage to see a couple when I forgot to bring my camera!

Finally this week I saw one at the far western end of Ellwood Mesa near the Sandpiper Golf Course. Here are my photos.

When the snake became aware of my presence it slithered toward what appeared to be a gopher hole. Very appropriate as it appears to be a gopher snake!

Specifically, it is probably a San Diego Gopher Snake. It looks very similar to the Pacific Gopher Snake, but it is a bit more orange than brown. And looking at a range map the San Diego Gopher Snake is native to our area. Here is some information from CaliforniaHerps.com.

The snake had recently swallowed some creature and had a large bulge to show for it. Probably a gopher or a rat. This made it fairly lethargic. Here you can clearly see that bulge!

I gently stroked its side which made it look up at me with curiosity.

I did not want to disturb it any more as it needs to rest in order to eat. It slowly slithered off into the brush to finish its meal in peace!
Gopher snakes are easily confused with rattlesnakes as they are similar in appearance. If in doubt, avoid getting too close. Rattlesnakes obviously have rattles at the end of their tails, but on rare occasion these can be lost.

Snakes are an important part of our natural ecosystem and they are very vulnerable. They cannot move very fast and are really quite defenseless if a human wants to harm them. Too many people act out of fear instead of out of a sense of appreciation and understanding. If you see a snake, you can admire it or just walk away. The snake means you no harm. You are not food so you are generally of little interest to a snake.

Just remember that "man's best friend" is far more dangerous to humans than any snake!

I am always grateful for the rare chance to see a snake!

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21 Comments

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sbrobert Sep 29, 2020 04:29 PM
Gopher Snake Near Sandpiper Golf Course

Thank you for all the kind words about snakes and about my photos. I am happy to see that so many people understand the beauty and value of snakes.

YACHT ROCKED thank you for the kind wishes for our housing situation. We are doing OK now that we have escaped that landlord who evicted us from my home of 31 years. But please don't insult the snake by making such a comparison!

REX I am glad to know that you would not harm a snake. As for risk factors, there are over 300,000 US emergency room visits per year from dog bites. Less than 10,000 per year from snake bites.

scott14 Sep 28, 2020 01:02 PM
Gopher Snake Near Sandpiper Golf Course

Thank you for the good pictures.
Up until around the mid-late 1980s I used to see CA Kingsnakes along the bluffs when jogging the wooden road formerly between R beach and Haskells area, and also on the trail down to Haskells. Used to see them regularly, commonly, maybe 2 or 3 times a month.
Wonder if the huge population influx with all the building in Goleta has pushed them out . . .haven't seen one in the past 20 years.

haskelslocal Sep 28, 2020 09:12 AM
Gopher Snake Near Sandpiper Golf Course

Snakes are an important part of our natural ecosystem and they are very vulnerable. They cannot move very fast and are really quite defenseless if a human wants to harm them. Too many people act out of fear instead of out of a sense of appreciation and understanding. If you see a snake, you can admire it or just walk away. The snake means you no harm. You are not food so you are generally of little interest to a snake."
Exactly. Way to help protect the ecosystem and educate others.

kantanen Sep 28, 2020 08:28 AM
Gopher Snake Near Sandpiper Golf Course

As always Robert your articles are so enlightening - thank you for instructing us in the world of beautiful snakes - and thank you for caring....

radiobarn Sep 28, 2020 07:53 AM
Gopher Snake Near Sandpiper Golf Course

We had several rattlers a year on our property when we lived in eastern San Diego county. Once you hear the rattle you never forget it. Believe it or not, a small squirt gun will send them off fast.

JB86 Sep 28, 2020 03:02 AM
Gopher Snake Near Sandpiper Golf Course

Rex: I'd be surprised if you didn't have a few snakes on the Mesa. Here in Goleta, below the foothills, we have Gopher snakes, CA Kingsnakes and rattlers on occasion. Rattlers are mostly up in the hills and canyons north of Goleta. All are good in control of rodents. As a side-note, kingsnakes also eat rattlesnakes. For ID, the photos above show a typical gopher snake (aka 'bull snake'). Kingsnakes are banded, dark brown on cream colored, while rattlesnakes, locally, tend to be very dark with diamond patterns.

REX OF SB Sep 27, 2020 11:28 PM
Gopher Snake Near Sandpiper Golf Course

Okay, I totally hate snakes of any kind. I'd never harm one, but I'd never want to be friends with one. I heard that a lady somewhere on the Mesa got bitten on the hand by a rattlesnake some time back while gardening. Could this possibly be true? Are there indeed rattlesnakes on the Mesa? I live in the area called Alta Mesa and I've never even seen a gopher snake here. I mean, not that I'm complaining.

Minibeast Sep 27, 2020 11:00 PM
Gopher Snake Near Sandpiper Golf Course

Re: shape of head----that is by no means a valid method of distinguishing a Gopher snake from a Rattlesnake. Gopher snakes will not only "rattle" their tales to mimic a Rattlesnake, they have also been known flatten their heads to further enhance their masquerade as a venomous Rattler.

MountainMan4865 Sep 27, 2020 09:58 PM
Gopher Snake Near Sandpiper Golf Course

An excellent article on Pacific Rattlesnakes... https://www.nwf.org/Magazines/National-Wildlife/2013/OctNov/Animals/Rattlesnakes

MountainMan4865 Sep 28, 2020 12:02 AM
Gopher Snake Near Sandpiper Golf Course

Granted, but there is a similar behavioral pattern. http://www.californiaherps.com/snakes/pages/c.o.helleri.html The previous article was specifically about figuring out how rattlesnakes had evolved to hunt birds. It also showed their strange, unexpected territorial display, which is fantastic. We have two residents on our property, one is about 3 1/2' long and the other is about 2 1/2' long. Both are dark black with faint diamond patterns, but we also have tan ones with distinct diamond patterning that pass through.

mtndriver Sep 27, 2020 05:25 PM
Gopher Snake Near Sandpiper Golf Course

That's a beautiful snake! Wish it lived in my front yard....sudden infestation of ground squirrels--so destructive, worse than gophers! And they seem to have driven the gophers out.

MountainMan4865 Sep 27, 2020 04:39 PM
Gopher Snake Near Sandpiper Golf Course

The head shape is completely different between a gopher snake and a rattlesnake. Gopher snakes will shake their tails in the leaves to mimic rattling as a defense when threatened.

Curmudgeon Sep 27, 2020 12:47 PM
Gopher Snake Near Sandpiper Golf Course

Delighted to see these! Thank you. Gopher snakes (Rattlesnakes, too) do good work in the ecological system. Glad you did not disturb or, like many, get spooked and try to kill it. While the markings are similar, gopher snakes can easily be distinguished from rattlers by their round eye and pupil, versus the vertical "cat slit" eye of the rattlesnake. Also, the rattler has a head wider than its body in a triangular shape.

sandy1 Sep 27, 2020 12:42 PM
Gopher Snake Near Sandpiper Golf Course

Came across a huge Rattlesnake while walking up Via Chaparral this morning . I went my way and he/she went his/hers . They are definitely out there .

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