Gopher snake, Pituophis catenifer

Gopher snakes are easy to care for and make an interesting beginner choice

At a glance...
  • Gopher snakes have some very interesting behaviours
  • Easy care requirements make them a good beginner option
  • Often skittish to begin with, but generally easy to tame
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Do Gopher snakes make good pets?

Gopher snakes are a highly diverse species of colubrid snake, comprising nine different sub-species, all of which originate from North America. In nature, this species is often mistaken for the Prairie rattlesnake, and even has a defence mechanism in which it puffs up its body, shakes its tail and raises its head into a similar strike pose as that of the Rattlesnake, which is believed to be a form of mimicry.

At Swell Reptiles, all of the Gopher snakes we have for sale were captive bred in the UK, meaning you can rest assured that your new snake came from a reliable source, with minimal impacts on their native environment.

What size vivarium does a Gopher snake need?

Adult Gopher snakes can reach around 150-270cm (5-9ft), so should be provided with a good amount of space to slither around in. We recommend a minimum enclosure size of 120 x 60 x 60cm (4 x 2 x 2ft) for an adult, for example, the VivExotic Repti-Home Bearded Dragon Vivarium Large. Glass or PVC enclosures can also be used, but for these sizes, they are generally required to be a custom build.

Do Gopher snakes need heating?

Gopher snakes naturally inhabit warm deserts, prairies, woodlands and brushlands, where they rely on external sources to control their own body temperature. The ideal basking temperature for this species is 32°C (89°F), whereas, the cool end should sit between 22-25°C (71-77°F).

To provide this thermogradient in the larger enclosures required for Gopher snakes, heat should be provided using an overhead heating system connected to a compatible thermostat. For example, a basking lamp and dimming thermostat, or a ceramic heat emitter and pulse thermostat.

Do Gopher snakes need UVB?

In general, snakes do not require UVB at the same level as many other reptiles, however, they can still benefit significantly from the presence of a good quality UVB source, giving them a UVI between 2-3. This can be achieved using an Arcadia ShadeDweller MaxT5

placed 25-40cm (10-15”) above the basking area, or an Arcadia ProT5 Kit - Forest 6% placed 40-45cm (15-18”) above the basking area.

What substrate do I need for my Gopher snake?

Gopher snakes have low humidity requirements, similar to that of the average room humidity in the UK (40-50%), so their substrate should not hold humidity as this risks increasing the overall humidity in the enclosure too much. This species also likes to burrow, so their substrate should provide them with the opportunity to do so. We recommend sand-soil mixes, such as Lucky Reptile Desert Bedding or Arcadia EarthMix Arid for bioactive set-ups.

How do I decorate a Gopher snake’s vivarium?

Your Gopher snake should be provided with at least two hiding areas, one at either end of the enclosure to give them a safe space at either end of the thermogradient, although more is much better. This can be in the form of hiding caves, logs or cork bark.

Branches and other pieces of decor should also be added throughout the enclosure for enrichment, along with foliage from real or artificial plants. Finally, a water bowl large enough for the snake to soak in should be provided, both for hydration and soaking during the shed cycle.

What do Gopher snakes eat?

Gopher snakes are carnivorous and should be fed on a diet made up of reptile frozen food, with rats and mice being good staple options. Once the snake is large enough, variety can be added to their diet in the form of chicks or multimammates, but they should not become a substitute for rats or mice on a permanent basis.

How do I buy a Gopher snake?

If you would like to purchase one of our UK captive bred Gopher snakes, please come into our store and see us. To ensure all of our livestock goes to the best homes possible, we will ask a few quick questions and also to see some images of your set-up, which should be completely ready for the snake to go into. We reserve the right to refuse adoption to anyone we feel is unprepared to adopt.

For more detailed husbandry information, please refer to our dedicated Gopher Snake Care Sheet.

Common names Gopher snake
Scientific name Pituophis catenifer
Country North America
Captive-bred Yes
Adult size 150-270cm (5-9ft)
Natural habitat Deserts, prairies, woodlands and brushland habitats
Housing 120cm x 60cm x 60cm (4ft x 2ft x 2ft) vivarium
Ideal temperature 32°C (89°F) (warm end); 22-25°C (71-77°F) (cool end)
UVI 2-3
Ideal humidity 40-50%
Diet Carnivorous
Average lifespan 12-15 years
Personality Skittish, but can be tamed
Ease of handling Easy
Cohabitable No
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  1. Gopher snake, Pituophis catenifer, care sheet
    Categories: Care sheetsSnakes

    Gopher snake, Pituophis catenifer, care sheet

    Gopher snake, Pithuophis catenifer, husbandry guide from the experts at Swell Reptiles, covering housing, heating, lighting and more.