Discover the Largest Gopher Snake Ever Recorded

Written by Emmanuel Kingsley
Updated: September 13, 2023
© Markparker1983/
Share this post on:


Key Facts

  • Gophers can be found from Canada to Mexico. 
  • They can also be found in wooded areas, prairies, deserts, or even in a park near you. Fortunately, they are nonvenomous.
  • They will bite if they feel threatened although they prefer to constrict their prey.

Gopher snakes are known for their large and powerful builds, as well as their unique epiglottis. The epiglottis is the movable cover or flap over your larynx that keeps food out of your windpipe. All gopher snakes have a thin, upright, and flexible epiglottis, which is how they make the hissing sounds they are known for. They force air from their trachea, which causes their epiglottis to vibrate loudly and hoarsely.

If you’ve ever wondered just how long these hoarse-hissers get, you’re in luck. This article uncovers the largest gopher snake ever recorded.

Are There Any Venomous Gopher Snakes?

gopher snake
Gopher snakes are nonvenomous.

©Cedar Dobson/

95,411 People Couldn't Ace This Quiz

Think You Can?

All gophers of the Pituophis snake genus are nonvenomous. This means that although some might bite, they do not have fangs that transmit venom to their victims. Instead, gopher snakes use a combination of striking and constriction to extinguish their prey.

Where Do Gopher Snakes Live?

Gopher snakes make up one of the most prevalent and broadly distributed snake varieties in the Western Hemisphere. They can be found in Mexico, Western Canada, and the Western United States. Different variations of the species can thrive in densely wooded areas, prairies, or deserts. These reptiles have also been known to frequent human-inhabited areas like parks and suburban neighborhoods.

What is the Largest Gopher Snake Ever Recorded?

Bullsnake - Coiled
A bullsnake which measured 8.5 feet long was the largest gopher snake ever recorded.


The largest gopher snake ever recorded was a bullsnake (Pituophis catenifer sayi) which measured 8.5 feet (2.6 m). According to the Guinness World Records, the 8.5-foot bullsnake was recorded on the 21st of November in 2016.

What is the Smallest Gopher Snake Species?

The smallest gopher snake species is the Santa Cruz gopher snake (Pituophis catenifer pumilus). The Santa Cruz gopher snake is also called the dwarf gopher snake. This isn’t only because pumilio means “dwarf” in Latin but also because of its size. The Santa Cruz gopher snake, which grows to a maximum of 3 feet (36 inches), is dwarfed by other snakes in its genus.

However, despite their small sizes, they behave just like larger gopher snakes. They vibrate their tails to look more threatening, constrict their prey to death, and are nonvenomous. One difference is that they have a less varied diet than other gopher snakes.

Bullsnakes are carnivores that eat small mammals, birds, and lizards.

Are Bullsnakes Gopher Snakes?

Yes, bullsnakes are gopher snakes. Like all gopher snakes, they are nonvenomous and are known to hiss at predators defensively. They are also thick-bodied and weigh 2.2–3.3 pounds (35.2 – 52.8 ounces) on average. Bullsnakes are one of the longest and largest snakes in North America.

What Do Bullsnakes Look Like?

When threatened, the Bullsnake rears up in an S-shape, hisses and vibrates its tail to mimic the venomous rattlesnake.
Bullsnakes are mostly yellow with blotches that come in many colors, including white, black, brown, or red.


Although bullsnakes are mostly yellow, they can also be white, brown, or albino. They have blotches that come in many colors, including white, black, brown, or red. They also have yellow bellies with black spots.

What Do Bullsnakes Eat?

Bullsnakes are carnivores that eat small mammals, birds, and lizards. Unlike many other snakes, such as the coral snake and copperhead, they hardly eat other snakes and do not eat other gopher snakes.

How Do Bullsnakes Hunt Prey?

Bullsnakes take advantage of their bodies to hunt. Their large and thick bodies make them the perfect constrictors. They are also expert tree climbers, which helps them when hunting squirrels and birds. When bullsnakes spot their prey, they go after them with a swift deftness that often catches their prey by surprise. 

They wrap their long bodies around their prey and slowly squeeze the life out of them. This process is often a quick and ruthless one. One bullsnake can kill and eat a small bird in less than 3 minutes.

Will a Gopher Snake Bite You?

Although gopher snakes are nonvenomous constrictors, they can and will bite if they feel threatened. However, most gopher snakes, such as the bullsnake, only bite when they have tried other defensive tactics. 

A bullsnake will try to escape before fighting. When they feel threatened, they rear up in a bid to look bigger and more threatening. They usually do this while hissing, lunging threateningly, and trying to escape. If this doesn’t work, however, a bullsnake will bite you.

If you come across a bullsnake that has begun to hiss and lunge at you, an escape is still possible. If you back away as non-threateningly as possible, the bullsnake is unlikely to follow you.

How Long Do Gopher Snakes Live?

These rattlesnake lookalikes, generally live for under a decade, and most gophers live for about 7 years. However, human care can extend that figure considerably, and domesticated reptiles can live for 12 years or even 15.

Perhaps safety is a contributing factor since gophers are often at risk of getting run over due to their penchant for taking to roads to enjoy a bit of sunshine. In human care, they would also be safe from anyone who might take them for a rattlesnake and move to dispatch them swiftly.

How Dangerous is a Gopher Snake Bite?

A gopher snake bite is dangerous and should be treated that way. Although they are non-venomous, most of them have at least 4 short and sharp rows of teeth that may be lined with bacteria. Thus, a bite from a gopher snake would be extremely painful and may result in the transfer of bacteria to the victim.

In addition, given the structure of gopher snakes’ teeth, there is a minute but existent possibility that the victim’s vein or artery would be damaged. This would result in a significant problem that would require emergency surgery.

It is also important to consider the fact that you could misidentify the snake that bit you. Some venomous rattlesnakes have similar coloring and build to gopher snakes, and a mistake would be too easy to make on a dark night.

Consequently, the best route to take if a snake has bitten you is to:

  • Keep the bitten area below your chest and avoid unnecessary movements
  • Contact your local poison control center immediately
  • Do not attempt any first aid treatment such as sucking the blood out, cutting off the bitten part, tying a tourniquet, or any other “home remedies”. Many of these remedies, such as the ones listed here and many others, end up worsening the situation. For example, cutting off the bitten part could result in bleeding to death, and there is a large chance that you wouldn’t cut far enough; venom moves through the bloodstream. Sucking out the blood could also result in having some left in your mouth and the bitten area.

So, if any snake has bitten you, stay calm, keep movement at a minimum, and contact your local poison control center. They are a free resource and are available 24/7. 

Other Record-Breaking Snakes

The population of lyre snakes is not fully known, but it is believed to be around 10,000.

©Rodolfo Ayala Plata/

The western lyre snake is a type of lyre snake that is the largest among the group and can grow to a medium to large length. These snakes have a slender build, with a medium-sized tail that can reach up to 1.61 meters (63 inches), making them significantly longer than other species of lyre snakes.

For instance, the Mexican lyre snake, the Texas lyre snake, and the Central American lyre snake can only reach up to 39 inches in length. The population of lyre snakes is not fully known, but it is believed to be around 10,000.

Breeding typically occurs during the spring season, with females laying a clutch of at least 10 eggs in the summer. These eggs then hatch in late summer or early fall.

Discover the "Monster" Snake 5X Bigger than an Anaconda

Every day A-Z Animals sends out some of the most incredible facts in the world from our free newsletter. Want to discover the 10 most beautiful snakes in the world, a "snake island" where you're never more than 3 feet from danger, or a "monster" snake 5X larger than an anaconda? Then sign up right now and you'll start receiving our daily newsletter absolutely free.

Share this post on:

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.