The Gopher Snake, deserticola subspecies (Pituophis catenifer deserticola), is the largest snake (up to 2.4 m in length) native to British Columbia. The deserticola subspecies is one of several subspecies of Gopher Snake found in western North America and the only extant subspecies found in the province. The coastal subspecies (Pituophis catenifer catenifer) is extirpated. The background colour is tan or cream, and a row of dark blotches occurs along the middle of the back and tail, with a series of smaller blotches on the sides. It has a dark mask across the top of the head between the eyes and from the eyes to the back of the jaw. The eyes have a round pupil. The Gopher Snake is non-venomous and harmless to humans.
The Gopher Snake, deserticola subspecies, occurs in the dry interior of south-central British Columbia within four geographic areas: Fraser?Thompson?Nicola, Okanagan?Similkameen, Midway, and Grand Forks. They are associated with the dry, hot Bunchgrass, Ponderosa Pine, and Interior Douglas-fir biogeoclimatic zones, and use grassland, shrub?steppe, wetland, riparian, talus, rock outcrop, and open ponderosa pine and Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir forests. Their active season is from March to October.
The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) refers to this subspecies as the Great Basin Gophersnake and has designated it as Threatened. It is listed as Threatened in Canada on Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act. In British Columbia, it is ranked S2S3 by the Conservation Data Centre and is on the provincial Blue List. The B.C. Conservation Framework ranks the Gopher Snake as a priority 2 under goal 3 (maintain the diversity of native species and ecosystems). It is protected from capture and killing under the province?s Wildlife Act. It is also listed as a species that requires special management attention to address the impacts of forest and range activities under the Forest and Range Practices Act and/or the impacts of oil and gas activities under the Oil and Gas Activities Act on Crown land (as described in the Identified Wildlife Management Strategy). Recovery is considered to be biologically and technically feasible.
The greatest threat to the Gopher Snake is direct mortality from road traffic. Lower-ranked threats include habitat loss and fragmentation from housing and agriculture, recreation, and fire suppression; potential diseases from invasive non-native/alien species; as well as direct harm or mortality from recreation, persecution, and pollution.
The recovery goal is to maintain or increase the abundance of Gopher Snake in each of the four geographic areas in the province and to maintain or increase connectivity within these areas.
The following objectives are necessary to meet the recovery goal and recover the species.
1. Reduce road mortality to a level that will not affect population viability.
2. Secure denning (hibernation), foraging/migration, egg-laying, and dispersal habitat throughout the species? known range in British Columbia.
3. Address knowledge gaps related to population demography, habitat quality, habitat distribution and use, priority threats, and effectiveness of recovery actions.
Southern Interior Reptile and Amphibian Working Group. 2016. Recovery Plan for the Gopher Snake, deserticola subspecies (Pituophis catenifer deserticola) in British Columbia. Province of BC
Topic: Recovery Planning
Scientific Name: Pituophis catenifer deserticola
English Name: Gopher Snake, Deserticola Subspecies
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