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Reptiles and Amphibians of North Dakota

Bullsnake (Pituophis catenifer)

species distribution map JPG -- Species Photo

Bullsnakes are North Dakota's largest nonpoisonous snakes, reaching lengths of up to 83 inches. The average length for adults is about 60 inches. The record length is 92 inches. Their coloration is yellowish to buff-brown with a series of black or brown blotches on the back. The belly is yellow with black mottling. The tail has black stripes which are inconsistent with the other markings. Female bullsnakes mate in the spring and lay 3-24 eggs in a sandy burrow or under large rocks or logs.

When disturbed, bullsnakes will try to escape without incident. If, however, they are cornered, they will hiss loudly, vibrate their tails, open their mouths and boldly strike. Because of this aggressive behavior, many bullsnakes are killed by people who believe these snakes to be poisonous.

Bullsnakes feed mostly on rodents, although small birds, and even chicken eggs may be consumed. Their prey is usually killed by constriction, then swallowed whole. The consumption of rodents makes bullsnakes very beneficial to agriculture. Large bullsnakes (five to six feet long) will consume one to four mice a week.

These snakes can be found west of the Missouri River in areas of grasslands, meadows, or fields.

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