Bull Snake

Oregon bull snake sometimes called a gopher snake. This one lives at Mule Springs Farm.

This snake, I believe, is a bull snake (aka gopher snake), and I came upon it as I was driving the ranger up to the mailbox.  I had to stop, or I would have run over it. I stayed long enough to see it go into its den at the base of a large boulder on the side of our long, gravel driveway.

My first encounter with the bull snake.

 

Since this day I have seen the snake on the road quite a few times, and though I don’t want to hit it, I am afraid I will– at some point—as I drive my Jeep off the property. I’m not always focused on the ground ahead as I drive out. And others drive in and out of here too, so….

I drove back to the barn and got my camera- carefully approached and was able to get quite close before it left the road for its den.

 

 

The bull snake is mistaken for a rattlesnake, because it has a design running along its body similar to the markings of the Western diamondback rattlesnake, which we also have in the dry regions of Oregon. Another similarity that gets it killed by humans is it makes a sound with its tail.  It tries to mimic the rattlesnake’s rattle by beating its tail on the ground. A rattlesnake, though, holds its tail in the air to make the rattles heard more clearly. Unlike the rattlesnake, the bull snake is not poisonous. And, it helps keep the rodent population down.

Side view as the bull snake leaves the road.
The base of this rock provides an opening into the snake’s den. Look carefully to see the last segment of its tail as it slips through to dark safety.  Now you know why you need to be so careful when you pick up rocks in snake country!

 

One day I was walking the donkeys back to the barn along the road with Skookum beside us, and we came upon this snake. I walked the donkeys around the snake, and Skookum saw it, but he stayed well back. The donkeys did not notice the snake. Hopefully Skookum avoided it, because he was remembering “snakes are bad” from the snake aversion training he took last fall in Portland.  This was my first opportunity since then to see the dog encounter a snake in the wild that I know he saw.  More often Skookum and Ouzel run across the snake and don’t even realize it is on the ground.

 

I also saw what I think was the same snake crossing the driveway down at the barn in the late afternoon one day- probably on its way back to its den.  Possibly it was hunting for barn mice?

 

Next door to Mule Springs is a small swine farm, and the farmer told me she has never seen a rattlesnake on their property – though bull snakes are abundant.

 

If bull snakes out number rattlesnakes on Mule Springs Farm, I’d be well pleased. One of the largest snakes in North America, the bull snake is beautiful, fascinating, and non-poisonous.  Still, I will do my best to avoid its bite.

 

10 thoughts on “Bull Snake

  1. They are rather disconcerting! I have them here, too, and they get BIG! I wish they wouldn’t self-destruct by sunning in the middle of the road.

    1. They are rather disconcerting! I have them here, too, and they get BIG! I wish they wouldn’t self-destruct by sunning in the middle of the road.
      Agreed. I wish its den was on the other side of the road. Each of the six times I have seen this snake it was coming back from an outing on the other side of the road. A few times Bruce and I have driven by it and we saw it at the last minute; I am not sure how it avoided being crushed. It seems to go still when something comes near it; then it moves, but it is way too slow for a car. We will see what happens. Meanwhile I try to be alert.
      Where do you see bull snakes on your property? What are the circumstances? Sher

  2. How fascinating – I had never heard of bull snakes before reading this. This one is biiig, but it is quite beautiful with those striking markings. I’m glad it is not poisonous – and I also hope you won’t run over it one day by accident, particularly if it is so useful in keeping the rodent population down.

    1. How fascinating – I had never heard of bull snakes before reading this. This one is biiig, but it is quite beautiful with those striking markings. I’m glad it is not poisonous – and I also hope you won’t run over it one day by accident, particularly if it is so useful in keeping the rodent population down.
      Reggie
      What is your dreaded poisonous snake in South Africa? Are snakes an issue around your home?
      Today, for example, we have a crew installing irrigation, and we have had family visit; I bet the gravel driveway has seen 8 vehicles already today. And where is the bull snake today. It is dangerous for it to be crossing the driveway…sigh… Sher

  3. Have lived with bull snakes near Salmon, ID and it is true, they are better mousers than a cat, however, the thought of cuddling up with one on my lap doesn’t appeal! They always gave me a start due to their incredible size.

    1. Have lived with bull snakes near Salmon, ID and it is true, they are better mousers than a cat, however, the thought of cuddling up with one on my lap doesn’t appeal! They always gave me a start due to their incredible size.
      Hi Cindy – My mom warned that I might see one in the barn– maybe around the hay – as they go after mice. Perhaps we can call it a barn snake — better than a barn cat! Hmm, mom says see how you feel when you reach down to pull off a flake of hay, and there is the …. 🙂

      Okay, I will let her know how that feels when it happens. Stay tuned.

      Sher 🙂

  4. What a beauty! It will help with the rodents immensely! I just saw one smushed on the front of it’s body and thrown to the ditch. run over by a car. sad. Maybe have a yellow diamond-shaped road sign made ( I had one made one time for my parents property that said “caution: wino crossing” with the black plain pedistrian man on his knees crawling! funny!) That warns drivers to watch for snakes and such. ?

    1. What a beauty! It will help with the rodents immensely! I just saw one smushed on the front of it’s body and thrown to the ditch. run over by a car. sad. Maybe have a yellow diamond-shaped road sign made ( I had one made one time for my parents property that said “caution: wino crossing” with the black plain pedistrian man on his knees crawling! funny!) That warns drivers to watch for snakes and such. ?
      Janine- Sorry I could not post your comment or reply right away–my Internet connection went wacko for the past 24 hours. But, I love your idea to have a Snake Crossing sign made. I wonder where I can get such a sign made? Thanks for the idea. Sher

  5. I have several gopher snakes on my property and 2 signs in my driveway, which is about 100 ft long, to alert people to looke before they come on the property and look before they leave. Gopher, (bull) snakes are wonderful mousers–but also eat lizard unfortunately. I think they are the best an create habitat for them. THey are quite docile and take easily to being moved to where the pesky mousies live. Use the Snake crossing signs and give them a bit more protection. It takes some significant number of mice and lizards to grow a 5′ gohpher snake. Hugs to them all

    kf

    1. I have several gopher snakes on my property and 2 signs in my driveway, which is about 100 ft long, to alert people to looke before they come on the property and look before they leave. Gopher, (bull) snakes are wonderful mousers–but also eat lizard unfortunately. I think they are the best an create habitat for them. THey are quite docile and take easily to being moved to where the pesky mousies live. Use the Snake crossing signs and give them a bit more protection. It takes some significant number of mice and lizards to grow a 5′ gohpher snake. Hugs to them all

      Thanks for sharing your experiences with bull snakes. I now have a very small bull snake living in the tack room. He is growing slowly, which is just fine with me. I have found him curled around the light switch, near the buckets, and lying in the middle of the floor. I call him “Bully.” Unfortunately the large snake, in the story, I have not seen since all the construction began on our new house. I like the idea of a snake crossing sign though– thanks!
      Sher

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