Scientific Name: Pituophis catenifer catenifer
Other/Previous Names: Pacific Gopher Snake
Taxonomy Group: Reptiles
Range: British Columbia
Last COSEWIC Assessment: May 2012
Last COSEWIC Designation: Extirpated
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Extirpated
The Gophersnake (Pituophis catenifer) is a large (up to 2000 mm total length), yellow or cream snake, with dark spots and a dark line across the face, from the eye to the jaw. Three subspecies are recognized in Canada, the Bullsnake (P.c. sayi), the Great Basin Gophersnake (P.c. deserticola), and the Pacific Gophersnake (P.c. catenifer). (Updated 2017/05/25)
Males and females mate in the spring after emergence from the hibernacula, and spend the active season in suitable foraging habitat, feeding primarily on mammals. Eggs are laid in early July, in abandoned rodent burrows or talus slopes, and the hatchlings emerge from the nest sites in late September. Individual snakes are capable of moving long distances between den sites, nesting sites, and summer foraging areas. (Updated 2017/05/25)
The most important factor in the decline of this species is degradation or loss of habitat. Suitable habitat for P.c. deserticola in B.C. occurs in a small area in the province, and urbanization and cultivation are rapidly destroying the remaining habitat. Bullsnakes are subject to destruction of den sites and fragmentation of grassland habitat in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Humans are also a direct threat to snakes, either by driving over snakes that may be lying on or crossing roads, or by deliberately killing the snakes because of their superficial resemblance to rattlesnakes, their large size, and a general dislike of all snakes.
This species is at the northern limit of its range in Canada, and has a limited distribution in this country. The active season is apparently not long enough for females to reproduce every year. They seem to mature at a smaller size than populations farther south, and possibly at a later age, but it is not known if these differences are phenotypic or genotypic. If Gophersnakes and Bullsnakes take longer to mature in Canada than in more southerly populations, then the populations would be slower to recover from declines than ones further south. (Updated 2017/05/25)
The Pacific Gophersnake is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA).
More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.
PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.
The Gophersnake (Pituophis catenifer) is a large (up to 2 meters total length), yellow or cream snake, with dark spots and a dark line across the face, from the eye to the jaw. Three subspecies are recognized in Canada, the Bullsnake (P.c. sayi), the Great Basin Gophersnake (P.c. deserticola), and the Pacific Gophersnake (P.c. catenifer).
Pacific gophersnake - Designated Extirpated in May 2002. Assessment based on a new status report. Great Basin gophersnake - Designated Threatened in May 2002. Assessment based on a new status report. Bullsnake - Placed in the Data Deficient category in May 2002. Assessment based on a new status report.
A response statement is a communications document that identifies how the Minister of the Environment intends to respond to the assessment of a wildlife species by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The document provides a start to the listing and recovery process for those species identified as being at risk, and provides timelines for action to the extent possible.
The Minister of Environment and Climate Change is the competent minister under SARA for the Pacific Gophersnake and has prepared this strategy, as per section 37 of SARA. To the extent possible, it has been prepared in cooperation with the Province of British Columbia as per section 39(1) of SARA.
This Order acknowledges receipt by the Governor in Council of the assessments of the status of wildlife species done pursuant to subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The purpose of SARA is to prevent wildlife species from being extirpated or becoming extinct, to provide for the recovery of wildlife species that are extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity and to manage species of special concern to prevent them from becoming endangered or threatened.
Schedule 1, the List of Wildlife Species at Risk of the Species at Risk Act (SARA), is amended by Order of the Governor in Council (GIC), on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, by the addition of 73 species. This Order is based on scientific assessments by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and follows consultations with provincial and territorial governments, Aboriginal peoples, stakeholders and the public, and analysis of costs and benefits to Canadians.
Under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to “assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species”.
COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings in this reporting year (September 1, 2011 to September 30, 2012) from November 21 to 25, 2011 and from April 29 to May 4, 2012. On February 3, 2012, an Emergency Assessment Subcommittee of COSEWIC also assessed the status of the Tri-colored Bat (Perimyotis subflavus), the Little Brown Myotis (Myotis lucifugus), and the Northern Myotis (Myotis septentrionalis). During the current reporting period COSEWIC assessed the status or reviewed the classification of 67 wildlife species.
For species already found on Schedule 1 of SARA, the classification of 32 species was reviewed by COSEWIC and the status of the wildlife species was confirmed to be in the same category (extirpated - no longer found in the wild in Canada but occurring elsewhere, endangered, threatened or of special concern).
The wildlife species assessment results for the 2011-2012 reporting period include the following:
Special Concern: 15
Data Deficient: 2
Not at Risk: 6
Of the 67 wildlife species examined, COSEWIC reviewed the classification of 49 species that had been previously assessed. The review of classification for 26 of those species resulted in a confirmation of the same status as the previous assessment (see Table 1a).
The Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003 as part of its strategy for the protection of wildlife species at risk. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, hereinafter referred to as the 'SARA list'. Canadians are invited to comment on whether all or some of the species included in this document should be added to the SARA list.
As part of its strategy for protecting wildlife species at risk, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk.
Please submit your comments by
March 4, 2013, for terrestrial species undergoing normal consultations
October 4, 2013, for terrestrial species undergoing extended consultations.
Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan identifies the species for which recovery documents will be posted each fiscal year starting in 2014-2015. Posting this three year plan on the Species at Risk Public Registry is intended to provide transparency to partners, stakeholders, and the public about Environment and Climate Change Canada’s plan to develop and post these proposed recovery strategies and management plans. However, both the number of documents and the particular species that are posted in a given year may change slightly due to a variety of circumstances.
Last update March 31, 2017