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The Bull Snake, Pituophis melanoleucus, is a hissing constrictor from North America. This snake is also called the gopher snake (in western North America) and the pine snake (in eastern North America). It is a constrictor, a snake that kills by squeezing prey until the victim can no longer breathe. The Bull Snake makes a hissing noise - because of this noise, people sometimes mistake it for a rattlesnake.

Anatomy: Bull Snakes are up to about 5 feet (1.5 m) long. They range from yellow-brown to brown to cream-colored, with black and brown markings; the belly is light brown. This snake has a small head and a large nose shield, which it uses to dig. Like all snakes, Bull Snakes are cold-blooded; they are the same temperature as the environment. The Bull Snake smells using its tongue. This snake has teeth and can bite (but it is not venomous).

Hunting and Diet: Bull Snakes are carnivores (meat-eaters). Like all snakes, they swallow the prey whole, head first. The snake's top and bottom jaws are attached to each other with stretchy ligaments, which let the snake swallow animals that are wider than itself. Snakes don't chew their food, they digest it with very strong acids in the snake's stomach. Bull Snakes eat burrowing mammals (like mice, rabbits, gophers, and ground squirrels), ground-nesting birds, and bird eggs. After eating a large animal, the Bull Snake needs no food for a long time, and it rests for weeks.

Predators: Enemies of the Bull Snake include hawks and eagles.

Habitat: The Bull Snake lives in North America, in sandy areas, prairies, open forests (pine and oak), agricultural fields, and brush.

Reproduction: Bull Snakes mate in the spring. Females dig a shallow, sandy burrow and lay 3 to 20 cream-colored eggs in a clutch. The incubation period is about 64 to 80 days. Newborns are from 1 to 1 1/2 foot (30-46 cm) long. There is no parental care of the young.

Classifcation: Kingdom Animalia, Phylum Chordata, Class Reptilia (reptiles), Order Squamata (lizards and snakes), Suborder Serpentes (snakes), Family Colubridae, Genus Pituophis, Species P. melanoleucus.

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