Bullsnake Pituophis catenifer

Adult from Northeastern Illinois
Subadult from Newton County

Identification: Bullsnakes are large, unique snakes of Indiana's remnant sand prairies. They are one of only two snakes to hiss loudly when threatened or handled (hog-nosed snakes being the other) and are often a vibrant yellow color with bold, dark patterning that becomes darker and more profuse toward the head. They have a broad, dark stripe connecting and extending past the eyes on the side of their head. Adults can grow to over six feet (1.8 m) long and some, very large individuals have been captured at around eight feet (2.5 m) long!

Similar Species: Hog-nosed snakes can be similarly colored and will also hiss loudly when handled, but their scales are more heavily keeled and they have a distinctive upturned and pointed snout. Western foxsnakes and eastern milksnakes occur alongside bullsnakes, but are generally darker brown in color, smaller, and do not exhibit marked changes in dorsal pattern along the length of the body, as do bullsnakes.

Distribution: Bullsnakes are restricted to the northwestern sand prairie region of Indiana, but were historically known from remnant sand prairies in Knox County (that are now largely gone). They are burrowers that inhabit sandy-soiled, open-canopy environs and feed heavily on rodents. Though they are most abundant in sand prairies, they persist in agricultural areas and around human dwellings where cover (boards, sheet metal, etc.) and prey are abundant.

Sand Prairie in Newton County
Sheet Metal Piles in Northeastern Illinois

Distribution Map
Distribution map of Bullsnake (Pituophis catenifer)
Photographs