Lee Richardson Zoo

Bull Snake

Order: Squamata
Family: Colubridae

Scientific Name: Pituophis cantenifer sayi


Description: Yellowish-tan to yellow, thickly spotted and blotched with brown, reddish-brown, or rust.  Color varies more than the pattern.  Tail has alternating black and yellow bands; the belly is yellowish with variable black mottling.  Adult males have longer tails than females.  Scales are keeled.  Maximum length in Kansas is 8 ft 4 in.  The average length is about 5 feet.  One of the longest snakes in Kansas.

Home Range: North America and northern Mexico.  (Throughout Kansas)


Habitat Type: Found in open grasslands, open woodland and woodland edge.  Common in cultivated fields where there is an abundance of rodents.


Reproduction: They mate in April and May.  Up to 24 eggs are deposited in burrows excavated by the female in loose soil, in spaces beneath large rocks or logs, or possibly in small mammal burrows.


Diet in Wild: Probably the most economically beneficial snake in Kansas, consuming large quantities of rodents.  Pocket gophers, rats, mice, rabbits, ground squirrels, and an occasional bird or bird eggs.  Fact:  It is commonly believed that bull snakes will kill or eat rattlesnakes; this possible misconception is often touted as a reason for humans not to harm bull snakes when encountering them in the wild.  They eat warm blooded animals.


Diet in Zoo: 2-3 small mice once a week.


General Info: Bull snakes are terrestrial, underground, and arboreal. It remains underground in cold weather and during the hot midday period in summer; it may occupy mammal burrows or dig its own burrow, using their pointed snout as a spade. When threatened, they will aggressively posture and may hiss loudly or strike.  The hissing sound is amplified by the vibration of a flap or membrane of skin in the glottis.  Larger specimens produce sounds similar to snorts and grunts if cornered. Active April through November at air temperatures above 60o F. They are diurnal, but become nocturnal during hot weather.   


Predators: Carnivorous birds and mammals.  Young snakes may be eaten by larger snakes.


Conservation Status: Common throughout Kansas.



Amphibians and Reptiles in Kansas; third Edition, revised, 1993, Joseph T. Collins, The University of Kansas Press, Lawrence, KS. pp. 226- 228.


Hammerson, G.A. 2007. Pituophis catenifer. In: IUCN 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 08 June 2011.


Living Snakes of the World in Color,, 1987, John M. Mehrtens, Sterling Publishing Co. Inc., New York, NY., p. 111.


The Encyclopedia of Snakes, 1995, Chris Mattison, Checkmark Books, New York, NY., pp. 128, 224.;


http://www.havesnakeswilltravel.com/2009/07/bullsnakes-vs-rattlesnakes-by-bryon-shipley-rattlesnake-researcher/ downloaded  6-21-11