By Gary Bogue
Thursday, July 9th, 2009 at 7:44 am in Snakes.
If you can get a close look at a rattlesnake or a gopher snake, they’re pretty easy to tell apart. But you don’t always get a close look when you find one crawling in your yard … and at a time like that they can look pretty similar and you may be fooled.
If you find a rattlesnake in your yard, make sure your children stay away from it and put your dog in the house so it can’t go sniff the snake and get bitten. If you need help … call your local animal services department or the police. Then keep an eye on the snake (from a safe distance) so you can show the authorities where it is when they arrive.
Yes, rattlesnakes are poisonous, but they are just as frightened of you as you are of them and they’d rather not stick around to bite anyone. They usually hang around areas where there are animals that they like to eat, like mice, rats and ground squirrels. Get rid of board piles in your yard, and other places where rodents like to hide so you don’t attract rattlers. And if you live next to open space areas, keep your grass cut short enough so you can spot any snakes lying around.
Make sure your family members, especially the kids, know what rattlesnakes look like. You can also go to http://www.google.com and do a search for rattlesnakes (and any other snake species) to find more photos to help you identify them.
Rattlesnakes are fatter than gopher snakes. Rattlesnakes have rattles on their tails, they have elliptical pupils (cat eyes), their scales have a rough look and they don’t hiss.
Gopher snakes are one of the most common snakes in the area. They are non-poisonous and eat rodents and particularly like gophers. They are often mistaken for rattlesnakes because they have similar markings. However, they are “skinny” compared to rattlesnakes and have slender heads and round pupils in their eyes. As I said above, rattlesnakes have elliptical pupils or “cat eyes.”
Gopher snakes, when frightened, will flatten their heads (to make them look bigger like a rattlesnake), coil, hiss, and “rattle” their tails to imitate rattlesnakes, hoping you’ll keep away. NOTE: They have no rattles and their tails are sharply pointed, and their scales have a shiny, yellowish look to them. Please don’t hurt them. They’re actually good guys to have around.