Meet our resident Bullsnake Sunny. Sunny is our female Bullsnake, who came to us in August of 2017 after she had hatched out in spring. She was donated to us by a breeder who did not want to keep her. Bullsnakes, Pituophis catenifer, are one of the more uncommon to rare species of snake found in Wisconsin. Their typical territory is located in Southern and Western Wisconsin preferring sandy soil and pine forests for habitat. Being only 3 years old, Sunny is only between 3 and 4 ft long, but she could potentially get as big as 8 feet long.
Bullsnakes, also called gopher snakes, are part of the constrictor family of snakes. Which means instead of using venom to kill their prey, they constrict or wrap their body around their prey until it suffocates them. They then digest their prey whole by dislodging their lower jaw and using strong muscles to force the food down their esophagus. Typical prey can include mice, rats, and the occasional bird or lizard. Sunny loves to eat mice as she is not quite big enough yet to eat rats. They only eat about 1 to 2 times per week, as it takes them considerable time to digest their prey because they do not have the ability to chew or mechanically break down their food the way we do ours.
Bullsnakes are often mistaken for rattlesnakes because when they are startled, they will vibrate their tail, and the sound of the tail rattling against the leaves or ground mimics that of a venomous rattlesnake causing predators to stay away. Sunny has some neat adaptations such as her enlarged nose shield. Being primarily a terrestrial snake, it uses this nose shield to dig and maneuver holes to go after prey or hibernate in winter. Sunny loves to bury herself in her wood chips or hide in her humid den box. So next time you are out visiting the Nature Center, which hopes to be open very soon, be sure to stop by and visit Sunny, but look closely as she may be trying to hide on you!