Species Profile

Pacific Gophersnake

Scientific Name: Pituophis catenifer catenifer
Other/Previous Names: Pacific Gopher Snake
Taxonomy Group: Reptiles
COSEWIC Range: British Columbia
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: May 2012
COSEWIC Status: Extirpated
COSEWIC Status Criteria:
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: This large snake, found in extreme southwestern British Columbia, has not been observed in the Canadian wild in more than 50 years.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Extirpated in May 2002. Status re-examined and confirmed in May 2012.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Extirpated
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2005-01-12

Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.

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Quick Links: | Taxonomy | Photo | Description | Habitat | Biology | Reasons for extirpation | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Pacific Gophersnake

Pacific Gophersnake Photo 1



There are three subspecies of Pituophis catenifer recognized in Canada: the Bullsnake P.c. sayi; the Great Basin Gophersnake P.c. deserticola; and the Pacific Gophersnake P.c. catenifer.



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)


Distribution and Population

Pituophis catenifer is found in southern British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, and farther south through the United States to Mexico. (Updated 2017/05/25)



These snakes are found in dry, grassland or forested areas with rocky cliffs or talus slopes suitable for den sites. (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)


Reasons for extirpation

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)



Federal Protection

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.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.


Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the Pacific Gophersnake (Pituophuis catenifer catenifer) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry



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.

11 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Pacific Gopher Snake (2013-01-03)

    This large snake, found in extreme southwestern British Columbia, has not been observed in the Canadian wild in more than 50 years.
  • Response Statements - Pacific Gophersnake (2004-04-21)

    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.

Recovery Strategies


  • Order Acknowledging Receipt of the Assessments Done Pursuant to Subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act (2004-04-21)

    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.
  • Order Amending Schedules 1 to 3 to the Species at Risk Act (volume 139, number 2, 2005) (2005-01-12)

    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.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2011-2012 (2012-10-05)

    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: Extinct: 1 Extirpated: 4 Endangered: 29 Threatened: 10 Special Concern: 15 Data Deficient: 2 Not at Risk: 6 Total: 67 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).

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species Under the Species At Risk Act: March 2004 (2004-03-03)

    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.
  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act: Terrestrial Species – December 2012 (2013-01-03)

    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 and by October 4, 2013, for terrestrial species undergoing extended consultations. Consultation paths.

Recovery Document Posting Plans

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada's Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan (2016-07-06)

    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 December 2, 2021
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