Warmer daytime temperatures increase small mammal activity on the prairie. It’s not surprising that Bullsnakes (pituophis catennifer sayi) take advantage of the Spring smorgasbord. It’s mating season. They prey on small mammals such as the Western Harvest Mouse, Pack Rats, Pocket Gophers and even ground nesting birds like the Western Meadow Lark. This colubrid kills its prey by constriction.
The Bullsnake resembles a Western Diamondback Rattler. Its guise includes similar coloration, dorsal pattern, and semi-keeled scales. Surprise or threaten a Bullsnake and get ready for a convincing Rattlesnake imitation, complete with coils and an s-curve striking posture. Other defense mechanisms include a flattening of its head to mimic the angled head of a rattler. Despite the lack of rattles, this reptile manages to induce an adrenaline rush in humans by emitting a nasty hiss. On the prairie it's important to be sure which snake you have encountered. Live-birth baby rattlesnakes resemble a juvenile Bullsnake and they do not have functional rattles, but do have functional fangs.
The snake I encounter on a Llano Estacado ranch road is a juvenile Bullsnake, hatched from elliptical, leathery eggs in August or September of last year. At over two feet in length it is well on its way to an eight foot prairie cruiser.
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