Bullsnake

Pituophis catenifer sayi

Order: Squamata

Husbandry Information

Housing Requirements

  • Temperature, Humidity, & Lighting:
    • Temperature:
    • Humidity:
    • Lighting:
  • Substrate:

Diet Requirements

  • In the wild, bullsnakes eat rodents, other small mammals, birds, eggs, and frogs.
  • In captivity, they are fed rodents.

Veterinary Concerns

Notes on Enrichment & Training

Other

Colony or Breeding Management

Notes species is housed or managed socially or for breeding purposes.

Individual Identification

Dimorphism or practiced ways to individually mark species (such as those in colonies, like giant millipedes).

Programmatic Information

Transportation

hot water bottle

Temperature Guidelines

  • Brandywine Zoo: During cool weather (under 65°F), supplemental heat is provided with a hot water bottle set to one side of the cooler.

 

Crating:

    • Brandywine Zoo: reptiles travel in a Coleman style coolers that have been amended with extra ventilation holes on the lid (with a wood-burning tool). Small and medium sized snakes travel inside an inside-out, knotted pillowcase. Large snakes travel loose in the cooler that is also bungeed shut.
      • lg cooler sm cooler cooler

Tips on Presentation

Touching Techniques

Tips on Handling

 

Potential Messaging

Acquisition Information

 

Comments from the Rating System

  • Lee Richardson Zoo: Often aggressive. Will open mouth and display often. Rarely bite but are active and less than ideal for most audiences.

Natural History Information

Range and Habitat

Bullsnakes are found in the central United States: east of the Rockies to western Indiana, north to southern Canada, and south through central and western Texas into northeast Mexico. Preferred habitat is grassy plains and prairies; sandy, semi-desert cactus “forests;” and wheat fields.

Physical Description

The ground color varies from straw yellow over the entire body to white in the neck region, dull yellow-brown on the midbody, and a cleaner, brighter yellow on the tail. Bullsnakes have over 40 large, dark body blotches. These blotches are usually black in the neck region turning to lighter brown or reddish brown on the midbody. These blotches turn into dark bands or rings on the tail. The head is boldly marked: therere is a stripe across the top of the head from eye to eye, barring on the labial scales, and a stripe from the eye to the corner of the mouth. The scales are keeled, meaning there is a ridge running down the center of each scale, giving the snake an overall rougher feel.

Bullsnakes are one of the largest snakes in North America, averaging about 5 feet in length.

Life Cycle

In late June and July, females will lay about a dozen large eggs. The eggs are 3.5 to 4 inches long, and new hatchlings are about 18 inches long.

Average lifespan is 12 to 25 years.

Behavior

Bullsnakes are capable burrowers, but they often shelter in mammal burrows or in the cavities formed by the root systems of fallen trees.

When a wild bullsnake is threatened, escape is the first line of defense. However, if a snake feels cornered, it will flatten its head and spread its jaws, which gives the head a diamond shape, puff up its body with air, and let out a hair-raising hiss. No other North American snake can hiss like a Pituophiscan! The hiss is not only loud, but very raspy-sounding due to a flap of cartilage in front of the trachea that vibrates as air passes by it. Sometimes the aggressive behavior is a bluff, and they may be slow to actually bite, but many mean business and will strike and bite with vigor. Furthermore, bullsnakes vibrate their tails, which produces a buzzing sound when in contact with leaves or dry grass. These defensive behaviors cause many of them to be killed as rattlesnakes (a case of mimicry backfiring!) However, timber rattlesnakes have black tails with tan rattles, and both timber and prairie rattlesnakes hold their tales high up in the air while rattling.

Threats and Conservation Status

Bullsnakes are not considered endangered, but they could be in trouble because of habitat loss and degredation.

Did you know…

Photographs

 

Documents

Any Documents to attach, species spotlights, etc.

Contributors and Citations