How Long Do Gopher Snakes Get?

Whether you’re looking at different snake breeds for a future pet or you have a hatchling now and desperately need to buy a cage, it’s really good to know just how big your snake will grow. I did some digging into just the size of the gopher snake, as well as how long it takes them to grow, and I thought I would share that with you.

How long do gopher snakes get?  Gopher snakes are born at a tiny 1 inch long and grow rapidly. Adult gopher snakes grow to 4 to 6 feet in length while the largest variety- the bullsnake can grow up to 8 feet by the time they reach 3 years old. When they are still young the growth can be described as rapid to the minimum adulthood length of 3 feet and then plateau around 5 feet as they age.

There are six subspecies of the gopher snake, the Pacific Gopher, Sonoran Gopher, the Great Basin Gopher, the Santa Cruz Gopher, and the Bullsnake. Common to the western half of North America, these desert-dwelling snakes can vary slightly in their size and how long it takes to reach each size.

Why Are Gopher Snakes So Long?

Gopher snakes eat their prey by constriction. With a longer body, this becomes more feasible. There may have existed a shorter variety but lost out in natural selection long ago. The long body is key to the gopher snake’s success.

While the growth slows down as they reach adulthood, gopher snakes never stop growing and are only stopped by their lifespan. That’s pretty sweet!

I was very surprised by the information I found. I had thought they would be much shorter and more adapt to going underground, like a gopher. I was actually very wrong, as they get their name due to their particular fondness for gopher meat and not because they act or look in any way like a gopher.

I know it may seem juvenile but I honestly thought gopher snakes behaved like gophers. You can laugh, it’s okay. If you believed that as well, know this isn’t the case here. In fact, gopher snakes love to lay out flat, especially on roads in the hot sun.

It’s quite common for gopher snakes to end up as roadkill because of this fondness for basking where cars drive. Never fear, despite being road rage victims, the gopher snake is nowhere near the endangered species list.

We want to keep the gopher snake around. Gopher snakes are extremely helpful in maintaining their ecosystems. Their diet of small mammals including gophers, mice, small birds, and more help keep the rodent population at tolerable levels and bring balance to the ecosystem.

Below is the common or average length of the Gopher species at each milestone:

  • Hatch: 11- 15 inches
  • 1 year: 1- 2 feet
  • 3 years: 3- 6 feet
  • Full adulthood (4 years on): 5-6 feet

Which Size of Cage Should I Buy For My Gopher Snake?

Most likely if you’re wondering about gopher snake sizes, you are also wondering what size of the cage you should get for it. You want your pet snake to be comfortable, not cramped or lost in space.

My suggestion is to purchase a cage that will fit an adult gopher snake no matter the age. This typically is a 30 to 55-gallon tank. This way, your snake will always fit into the cage instead of costing you time and money when you need to update his or her dwelling as the snake outgrows each cage.

After 3 or so years, all subspecies experience a plateau in growth to 5 feet on average and can be expected to stay relatively the same size for the rest of their adult lives. However, the male bullsnake and the Pacific gopher snake can easily reach 7 or 8 feet in length.

I was surprised to learn that gopher snakes can easily be a foot long when they hatch from their egg and then they grow very rapidly.

When I learned this, I imagined a toddler going through new pairs of shoes quickly as their feet grow and then as we reach late adolescence we tend to find a consistent size. Maybe you have experienced the pain of buying shoes for a toddler. Perhaps it’s the same as a snake feels when it grows.

Are Gopher Snakes Rattlesnakes?

At first glance, many confuse gopher snakes with rattlesnakes due to their loud hiss and rattle. Don’t be fooled! Know the differences. Gopher snakes have a smaller, more narrow head with big round eyes instead of the sharp cat-eye look which is typical of the rattlesnake.

They also are missing the striped blunt rattle made famous by the rattlesnake. This can be hard to tell because they also shake their tail when they feel crossed in any way, and they move that tail fast, so the stripe may be difficult to identify.

A huge distinguishing feature between the two is how much longer the gopher snake is compared to its rattlesnake counterpart. Gopher snakes also lack venom and kill their prey by strangulation, unlike the famous rattlesnake and its deadly venom.

What is most interesting to me is that the gopher snake actually wants us to think it’s a rattlesnake. In nature, this is called Batesian mimicry, or when a harmless species pretends and acts like the harmful predator they resemble.

You may not want to get close enough to measure the snake or check out their eye shape. If you are in the wild, my suggestion is to play it safe and stay far away. If it is a rattlesnake, the last thing you want are those fangs sinking in your hand or leg.

Fun Fact: Gopher Snakes Can Live a Long Time

According to the Utah Hogle Zoo, gopher snakes live 7 years on average. However, if they are taken care of properly, many gopher snakes can live 12-15 years in captivity. The oldest recorded gopher snake lived up to 33 years.

Related Questions

Are gopher snakes dangerous? Unlike the rattlesnake, the gopher snake is relatively harmless. If they are provoked, they will coil up and hiss, but they are not venomous and are often too little to cause any damage through constricting humans.

Will gopher snakes bite? Anything with a mouth can bite. When threatened, a gopher snake can bite and although they are non-venomous, it can still hurt. If a gopher snake has been tamed and has become used to being fed in their cage, they may get cage defensive. Be aware of how your snake feels before you attempt to handle it.

Do gopher snakes eat rattlesnakes? While gopher snakes won’t eat a rattlesnake, they do compete for the same food and territory. Gopher snakes can help push rattlesnakes out of a given area.