Pituophis catenifer vertebralis= Pituophis vertebralis (Blainville, 1835) 

Digital Image By Patrick H. Briggs 


Digital Image By Patrick H. Briggs 


 Digital Image By Patrick H. Briggs


Digital Image By Patrick H. Briggs 


 Digital Image By Patrick H. Briggs 


 The Cape or San Lucan Gopher Snake (Topera de Baja California)

The specific or latter portion of the scientific epethit Pituophis (catenifer) vertebralis gets its name VERTEBRALIS from the Latin modification of the word which means "pertaining to the back".  Since the time Klauber recognized two races, the Cape gopher snake (sometimes called the San Lucan gopher snake)  had been considered a subspecies. Still considered by most authorities to be a subspecies or race, it is called a morph or pattern class by a few. This snake is incredible looking,  indigenous to the Cape region of Baja California, it intergades near the Isthmus of La Paz with the bimaris form. It seems to occur in its pure form just south of La Paz and restricted to the Cape region. In its natural habitat, it is yellowish or olive to light orange in ground color with a saturated rusty-orange head without markings. Unlike many gopher snakes, the side of the head has no suborbital and postorbital stripes and the sutures in the labials are not edged in black. It occurs with some 38 to 51 vertebral blotches and 8-15 upper tail marks with the light color of the interspaces extending into most of the centers at each end of each dark vertebral blotch. Although there is some geographical variability, these vertebral blotches may be dark orange or reddish about two-thirds down the body and become much darker or black towards the rear or near and on the tail region. Occasionally, these blotches may be streaked with a darker color. The 2 or 3  lateral rows of markings are similar in color to that above, sometimes with white and dark lines. The vividness of color intensifies in this subspecies as they become older. The belly is unmarked anteriorly, but has dark spots toward the rear, and there is usually a black subcaudal stripe. L. Grismer remarks that some of the forms on small islands such Isla Cerralvo can be somewhat striped and faded with a pink-like tone to their body color. Grismer has also found wild specimens north of La Paz some 21 km in the isthmus with no black at all in the color pattern.(Grismer 2002,  page 299)

The Cape Gopher snake is a constrictor feeding primarily on young or small mammals and birds. Even so,  there are reports of small frog species such as Hyla regilla and lizards such as Uta stansburiana that are also prey to this species. In captivity, cannibalism has been reported and gopher snakes have been photographed eating others of their same species. Occassionally, other smaller snakes species are also eaten. 


 The Beautiful Cape Gopher Snake 

Pituophis catenifer vertebralis = Pituophis vertebralis  

 This is one of my male breeders, "Arnold"

Photo by Patrick H. Briggs




The upper scales are well keeled becoming less so laterally and toward the belly.


scales at mid-body           31--35 (usually 33)

Ventrals females            246-257 (Grismer 2002)

             males               238-251

Pre-frontals                   4 (usually)

Anal Plate                      Entire

Sub-caudals females      56-63 (Usually all subcaudals are divided down the center of the tail)

                  males         60-72

Supralabials                    8-10 (5th one nearly always contacts eye)

Preoculars                      3-5 (usually 3)

Infralabials                    11-15 (usually 13)

A beautiful baby Cape gopher snake:

Some breeder sites:

 Below is a female vertebralis of mine.

Photo by Pat Briggs 2016

Female vertebralis.

Digital by Pat Briggs 2016

Digital Image below by Patrick Briggs-August 2016


Digital Image by Pat Briggs-August 2016 


Digital Closeup by Patrick H. Briggs (August 2016) 



Baja California's  Cape Gopher Snake 

Photo by Patrick H. Briggs Courtesy John Ginter 



Cape Gopher Snake head study right side

(Notice the divided loreal on the right side of this animal's head)

Photo by Patrick H. Briggs 






One of my Cape Gopher Snake 2013 babies

Notice the striping on the neck region of this individual.

Photo by Patrick Houston Briggs




Below is a head study of another one of my Cape gopher snake babies

 Photo by Pat Briggs



Below is one of the baby Cape gopher snakes with a darker tail.

This individual also has neck striping.

Digital image by Patrick H. Briggs




 Cape Gopher Snake Upper Head Study

(Notice that this has only 3 prefontals instead of 4, the center one has fused to form one wide center prefrontal scale.

Also, check out the creased or sutured parietals toward their rear ends )

Photo by Pat Briggs






Underside of Head and Neck of the Cape Gopher Snake

Photo by Patrick Houston Briggs







 Cape Gopher Snake

Photo by Patrick H. Briggs





A Close View of Beautiful Reddish Blotches of the Cape Gopher Snake 

Photo by Pat Briggs







 The Cape Gopher Snake of Baja California has been described as having  38-51 vertebral blotches with 8-15 upper tail markings .

Photo by Patrick H. Briggs






The Cape Gopher Snake's  belly is unmarked and pale anteriorly, but there are dark spots toward the rear.

Photo by Patrick H. Briggs


 The underside of the tail of a male Cape Gopher Snake.

Photo by Patrick Briggs 

Digital Image By Patrick H. Briggs 


 The Cape form of the Baja California Gopher Snake

Photo by Patrick H. Briggs

Neonate Pituophis vertebralis (catenifer) vertebralis

Digital Image By Patrick Houston Briggs





Cape Gopher Snake

Digital image by Patrick Briggs June 22, 2014






Cape Gophersnake

Photo by Pat Briggs 






Cape Gopher Snake

Photo by Patrick Briggs Courtesy Lloyd Lemke


Pituophis vertebralis vertebralis

Digital photo by Patrick Houston Briggs



See this Site 



Range Description,   See this site:


Vertebralis area south of Lat. 24' 20' N.(T. Moisi)

"The species ranges through most of the Baja California peninsula in Mexico, from southern El Rosario southward to Cabo San Lucas. The population in the north at Valle La Trinidad is not disjunct, but is connected through the interior valley to the main range of the species. It also occurs on the Pacific islands of Magdalena and Santa Margarita as well the island of San Jose in the Gulf of California, Mexico."







Baja California Gopher Snake -
Pituophis catenifer vertebralis

Hirschkorn & Skubowius, 2011,2007579