Gopher Snake Bites: A Complete Guide to Prevention and Treatment

The gopher snake, also known as the “bull snake,” is a reptile species native to various locations throughout North America. They are often confused with the very dangerous rattlesnake, but gopher snakes are a different, less dangerous species with essential distinctions.

Gopher snakes are non-venomous, so their bite is not deadly. However, an untreated non-venomous snake bite can still lead to infection and other complications, so you want to attend to the wound as soon as possible.

In this article, I will provide information on how to apply first aid to, treat, and manage a bite from a gopher snake. I will also offer advice on how to identify and avoid being bitten by a gopher snake in the future. Keep reading to learn more.

Gopher Snake Bite: First Aid, Treatment, and Management

The symptoms of a non-venomous snake bite include: 

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Itching around the bite

Since gopher snakes are non-venomous, you will unlikely need to undergo any ext. However, you should still contact emergency services and have the bite looked at by a medical professional.

First Aid

Before applying first aid, call 911 and explain the situation as clearly as possible. In any medical situation, it is vital to remain calm. Distance yourself from the snake and do not try to capture it; this could result in another bite. If you have a camera or smartphone, take a picture of the snake for reference, especially if you are not entirely sure of the species. If you can’t take a picture, try and remember how it looks so you can describe it to first responders and doctors.

While waiting for help to arrive, Medical News Today provides some basic first aid for snake bites:

  • Keeping the wound below heart level 
  • Thoroughly (but gently) cleaning the bite area
  • Applying a clean, dry bandage
  • Preparing for potential swelling by removing excess clothing and/or jewelry

In addition, here is what you should not do:

  • Do not use ice.
  • Do not restrict blood flow (i.e., tying a tourniquet).
  • Do not take any medications (unless they’re given by a doctor).


Even though there is no venom in a gopher snake bite, there are still risks with leaving it untreated. 

Dirty, open wounds are vulnerable to skin infections. Necrosis (tissue death) is a severe risk with untreated bites. You may also experience an allergic reaction. This is why seeking professional medical assistance is the best decision to ensure you receive the appropriate care and treatment.


A doctor may prescribe you antibiotics to prevent infection. You may also be given medication to manage any pain.

With any kind of bite or tear in the skin, there is the possibility of contracting tetanus, a bacterial infection also known as “lockjaw.” If you are up-to-date on your tetanus vaccine, you will likely be fine. However, if you have not had a tetanus shot recently (according to the CDC, boosters are recommended every ten years for sufficient immunity), you may want to visit an urgent care center.

How To Avoid Being Bitten by a Gopher Snake

Now that you know how to take care of a gopher snake bite, it is a good idea to know how to prevent another from happening in the future. Here are some ways to recognize a gopher snake and avoid being bitten.

Identifying a Gopher Snake

Gopher snakes can be found across the central United States, southern Canada, and northern Mexico. They are often found in woodland, grassland, and mountainous areas. There are multiple subspecies of gopher snakes, but they have similar characteristics.

Physical Appearance

Compared to other non-venomous North American snakes, gopher snakes are relatively large, averaging around 6 feet (1.8 meters) in length. Their coloring and pattern will vary slightly depending on their location. Generally, they are a yellowish or brown color, allowing them to blend in with their surroundings.

They also have a repetitive diamond-shaped pattern along their backs which often gets them confused with rattlesnakes.

Unlike rattlesnakes, however, gopher snakes do not possess a rattle on their tails or have a triangle-shaped head. They also have rounded pupils instead of the slim “cat-like” pupils associated with venomous snakes like rattlesnakes and pit vipers.


Gopher snakes feed on small animals such as rodents and birds, but they are also the prey of larger animals. As such, they will sometimes mimic the behaviors of more deadly creatures to protect themselves from predators.

They will hide their tails in tall grass and shake them vigorously to copy the way a rattlesnake does with its rattle. Gopher snakes will also flatten their heads to appear more flat and triangular, like rattlesnakes.

What To Do if You Encounter a Gopher Snake

Snakes will typically not bite unless they feel threatened, so the chances of being bitten are virtually zero if you do not attempt to handle the snake. If you encounter a gopher snake outdoors, you are best off simply leaving it alone. If one gets into your house, contact a local wildlife expert to remove the animal.

When spending time outdoors, wear protective clothing such as boots, gloves, and long pants to avoid being bitten in case you disturb a snake unknowingly. Avoid areas where snakes are commonly found, such as tall grass and piles of rocks and gravel. Gopher snakes easily blend into these surroundings and may not be easy to spot if you are not looking for them.

Final Thoughts

Gopher snake bites aren’t poisonous to humans, but they shouldn’t be ignored. Applying first aid and contacting emergency services is essential. You may be given some medications to prevent pain and infection, but generally, you’ll just need to keep the wound clean and apply a bandage.

Snake bites can be frightening, even if the snake is not venomous. Remaining calm and getting the proper medical care will ensure you heal quickly and appropriately. In addition, knowing how to identify gopher snakes and what to do when you encounter one will keep you safe and prevent future bites.

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