What Do Gopher Snakes Eat? 10 Common Foods

gopher snake
© Matt Jeppson/Shutterstock.com

Written by Thomas Godwin

Updated: January 26, 2024

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What do gopher snakes eat? It’s a more intricate question than the name implies. The assumption is that an observer of a snake eating a gopher gave the snake its name. It’s a natural assumption to make. Gopher snakes do, after all, eat gophers. However, that’s not all they eat and, many times throughout the year, they may not eat gophers at all.

Gopher snakes get their name thanks to their preference for settling down and curling up inside gopher holes. Too lazy or incapable of making their own, they settle for taking advantage of their hardworking prey. Nature is fascinating because it’s simultaneously simple and enormously complex.

Gopher snakes are like most snakes, consuming the smaller prey they come across, whenever they’re hungry. As one of the most widespread snakes in North America, it’s difficult to lock gopher snakes down to a particular state or habitat. This also means their menu is a lot broader than snakes with a tighter habitat zone.

What Do Gopher Snakes Eat?

As it turns out, gopher snakes are not very picky eaters, at least where meat is concerned. What gopher snakes like to eat versus what they will eat is a narrow window. Due to their extensive habitat, they encounter a wide variety of species. The average gopher snake will reach between 4′ and 9′ in length. They’re also fairly wide-bodied snakes.

Their tummies hold quite a bit, and they’re large enough that their menu is even more extensive than just what their range encompasses.

1. Gophers


The look a gopher makes when a gopher snake enters its line of view.


Who could have guessed? Gopher snakes do eat gophers, though they get their name from stealing their homes. Sometimes, a gopher snake will steal a gopher’s home and wait quietly for it to return. Two birds with one stone, as it turns out. A gopher is a smallish mammal that grows to about half a pound, maybe a shade less. They primarily feed on roots (as a tunneling mammal) and have litters of up to 6.

2. Rabbits

Rabbit - Animal, Black Color, Running, Baby Rabbit, Jumping

A brown dwarf rabbit showing his tongue and jumping.

©Stefan Rotter/ via Getty Images

Depending on the rabbit, this may or may not be a huge meal. Since gopher snakes prefer agricultural areas, they’re likely to come across a lot of rabbits. Since rabbits are quick, agile, and very skittish, a gopher snake has to be at its best to nail one. Quickness is key, but gopher snakes prove they are up to the task time and time again.

3. Kangaroo Rats

Kangaroo rat in the zoo


rat standing like a kangaroo.

©Jana Mackova/Shutterstock.com

The kangaroo rat gets its name from the cute way it positions itself on its back feet, standing like a kangaroo. All that cuteness won’t save it from the crafty gopher snake, however. A kangaroo rat is a semi-decent meal, especially an adult. They weigh up to 4.5 ounces and are somewhere between 2″ and 4″ in length.

4. Voles

Common Vole (Microtus arvalis)

Common Vole (

Microtus arvalis

) in its Natural Rural Open Habitat


Voles are often confused with moles, but the gopher snake couldn’t care less. Down the hatch it goes. Voles, like moles, are tunnelers, primarily living underground. Like kangaroo rats, they’re fairly small, though some will reach up to 9″ in length. A vole is a natural food source for gopher snakes, since gopher snakes like the safety of underground tunnels and dwellings.

5. Ground Squirrels

Richardson's Groundsquirrel

Native to the northern Great Plains of the United States and southern Canada, these squirrels inhabit grasslands, pastures, and prairies.


In terms of what gopher snakes like to eat, the ground squirrel is pretty high on the menu. Like voles and gophers, ground squirrels are tunnelers, spending much of their time below the earth, thinking they are safe. Since gopher snakes are more than happy to investigate a hole, they regularly encounter ground squirrels. Some of them make quite a meal too, since they are capable of reaching 30 lbs in body weight.

6. Mice

Northern Grasshopper Mouse (Onychomys Leucogaster)


grasshopper mouse


©Liz Weber/Shutterstock.com

In a way, having a gopher snake on your property may not be the worst thing in the world. They will drastically reduce the mouse population, most of which are constantly trying to figure out ways to make a home in your home. As very small animals, a mouse is more of a passing snack for an adult gopher snake, so they will consume more than just one if possible.

7. Frogs

Closeup Of Frog Eating Butterfly On LilyPad Leaf In Pond

Close-up pic of a frog eating a




Since gopher snakes have such a large habitat (north to Canada, south into Mexico, and east to west from coastline to coastline), frogs are on the menu as well. Gopher snakes prefer agricultural areas, but a swamp doesn’t bother them one bit. Some frogs grow pretty big in the swamp, and will either make a good snack or a meal for the day.

8. Birds and Bird Eggs

Pigeon With Egg in the nest photography

Pigeon with eggs in the nest.

©Fahad Puthawala/iStock via Getty Images

Dining out on the plains? Check. Hunting frogs in the swamp? Check. Living in holes in the ground? Check. Climbing trees? Absolutely. A gopher snake has no problem climbing a tree to feast on the eggs in a bird nest. It will also go after birds on the ground, chicken eggs, duck eggs, or any eggs that are easily accessible. A gopher snake is often large enough to tackle a moderately sized chicken.

9. Insects

Close up photo of a Green Praying Mantis (Mantis religiosa)

Eye-to-eye close-up shot of a praying mantis.

©Lauren Suryanata/Shutterstock.com

What do gopher snakes eat when they’re young and small? They can’t tackle the gophers of the world just yet. Fortunately, nature always presents a solution, and juvenile gopher snakes will normally dine on insects. The larger the insect the better. More insects out there are worth writing down, especially since gopher snakes are all over North America. Suffice it to say that just about any insect will do.

10. Lizards

Sand Lizard chilling out on a wood porch.

©Karol Nicinski / Creative Commons – Original

What gopher snakes like to eat changes with size. While there are large lizards out there, most of the juvenile gopher snakes prefer the much smaller ones. Like insects, they are easy to catch, roll up, and constrict. Lizards drop off the menu once gopher snakes reach a certain size, making larger game the new focus.

#1Gophers7 oz to 35 oz
#2Rabbits1 to 6 lbs
#3Kangaroo Rats4 to 5 oz
#4Voles.9 to 1.8 oz
#5Ground Squirrels.1 oz to 30 lbs
#6Mice3.2 to 6.4 oz
#7Frogs.07 oz to 8 lbs
#8Birds and Bird Eggs.01 oz to 8 lbs
#9Insects.01 to 3.5 oz
#10Lizards.01 oz to 8 lbs
Insects are generalized, with the heaviest insect in America, the rhinoceros beetle, being the largest/heaviest, possible insect a gopher snake can consume.

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About the Author

Thomas is a freelance writer with an affinity for the great outdoors and Doberman Pinschers. When he's not sitting behind the computer, pounding out stories on black bears and reindeer, he's spending time with his family, two Dobermans (Ares and Athena), and a Ragdoll cat named Heimdal. He also tends his Appleyard Ducks and a variety of overly curious and occasionally vexatious chickens.

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