Cape Gopher Snake

The Cape or Baja Gopher Snake (Pituophis catenifer vertebralis) is a species of non-venomous, colubrid snake most commonly found in a small area of western Mexico. They have become an increasingly popular companion for people interested in the exotic pet trade due to their extreme color variations and relatively docile behavior.

The Cape Gopher is named after the location of its natural habitat, the Baja California Peninsula. Here, the snake can only be found at high elevations on the southern tip of the peninsula, where temperatures usually remain a mild 78°F (25.5°C). Hobbyists who own a Cape Gopher commonly assume that the snake's natural habitat is significantly warmer, then proceed to create a dangerously hot environment. This lack of understanding is presumably due to the snake's rarity.

A single Cape Gopher can exhibit wild color and pattern variations along the length of its body. Most begin with bright H-shaped marks in differing orange shades against an intense yellow background. As you trace the patterns down toward the tip of the tail, they begin to change in shape and darken until they are completely black while the yellow background loses its intensity. Other Cape Gophers' patterns begin as black stripes before evenly transforming into the familiar marks of the vertibralis family. When coiled up and alone, many people mistake the differing colors and patterns for a multiple number of snakes.

The average length of an adult Cape Gopher ranges from 36 - 66 in (91.5 - 168 cm). Hatchlings are born at a respectable 12 - 18 in (30.5 - 48 cm) in length. When threatened, the snake flattens its head while simultaneously vibrating its tail and hissing to closely imitate a rattlesnake.