Photo by Patrick H. Briggs (Old male specimen below provided by John C. Ginter)
San Martin Island gopher snake (Klauber, 1946)
(Pituophis catenifer fuliginatus)
By Patrick Briggs
The San Martin Island Gopher Snake is found on an island (Isla San Martin) off the northwestern coast of Baja California at Lat. 30degrees 29' N.. The island is only a mile in diameter and 2.5 miles from the coast. It is volcanic with many breeding sea birds; the eggs and young should make up part of the food for this insular dweller. The scientific epithet fuliginatus for this subspecies is derived from the Latin root word (fuliginisi) meaning "sooty". Indeed, its ground color is a sooty beige with lots of black accenting or tipping. The brown head is heavily mottled with black especially behind the middle of the prefontals and this head is moderately distinct from the neck and is wedge-shaped but blunt anteriorly, when viewed from above. On each side of the head is a dark band the angles from behind each eye to the angle of the mouth. Directly underneath each eye is also a dark thick bar that runs through the supralabials and the sutures on most of the labials are also marked. The head underneath is buff or gray. Dorsally, there is also abundant mottling of black, and both the head and tail ends may have a light rosy or reddish suffusion within the normal ground color. Fifty to seventy irregular, independent, and circularly touching or confluent brown or black markings run the length of the body followed by 14-22 tail markings. Much like the San Diego subspecies from the mainland called annectens, the cleanest markings are nearest the mid-body while the merging circular blotches are towards the neck region, and both the anterior and posterior markings are black, whereas, the mid-body region is dark brown with rusty dorsal interspaces. Those interspaces anteriorly are narrow, streaked with pigment, and are of an irregular pattern net-work. Posteriorly, the pattern becomes more uniform. Interspaces are cream anteriorly, and buff to brown toward the rear. Fuliginatus differs from annectens in having a darker pattern, a lot of spotting on the head, less blotches on the body, and usually, one instead of two preoculars. Fuliginatus also has high frequency for aberrant prefrontals, and it occurs with paired longitudinal streaks underneath the tail region. These streaks are a series of separate, dark triangles. There are 6 auxillary series of lateral spots on each side of the dorsal blotches above, the lowest contacting the ventral edges. The ground color buff or brown suffused and smudged with gray and brown. The belly is white to cream or yellowish with black dots and marks. Usually a light even-edged mid-ventral stripe dark-bordered on each side under the tail occurs on this ophidian subspecies. I've also observed thin light striping with dark thinner stripes within the light fields on each side of the wider bold somewhat broken stripe running along each side of the lateral anterior neck region of individuals such as the old male individual illustrated on this website below. This snake form reportedly grows to at least 24-55 inches (1400 mm). Tail proportionality in males are .175 and in females .157 average ratios to the body. L. M. Klauber reports this as a factor showing closer affinity to annectens than bimaris.
Scutellation: 4th or 5th supralabials always contact below eyes
Midbody Scales 31-35 Supralabials 8-9
Ventrals 224-234 males Infralabials 12-14
Ventrals 236-245 females
Rostral wider than high and pentagonal in shape, usually indents the internasals
---------- for nearly half their depths, or completely separates them
Loreals Longer than high with the posterior point penetrating the upper preocular;
----------- Subloreals may occur or the main loreal may be divided vertically
Subcaudals 73-82 males Preoculars single (usually)
Subcaudals 67-72 females
Prefontals 2 or more, azygos exist, prefrontals are often irregular and fused in different ways, sometimes occur with a
diamond-shaped central prefrontal surrounded by internasals and outer prefrontals.
Frontal Occasionally irregularly shaped or fused with other upper head scales
Parietals Extremely irregular
Supraoculars Not wrinkled or sutured
(See the holotype 17449 from the San Diego Museum collected July 11, 1939 by Lewis W. Walker below;
See the Booklet: Amphibians And Reptiles Of Baja California By Ron H. McPeak (Page 78)
The best resource for Pituophis catenifer fuliginatus could be THE GOPHER SNAKES OF BAJA CALIFORNIA
WITH DESCRIPTIONS OF NEW SUBSPECIES OF PITUOPHS CATENIFER By Laurence M. Klauber August 26, 1946
Pituophis catenifer fuliginatus
Photo Slide by Patrick Houston Briggs Courtesy John Ginter (Below is a close study of an old male)
Photo by Patrick Houston Briggs Courtesy John Ginter (The individual below is a very old male)
San Martin Island Gopher Snake Pituophis catenifer fuliginatus
Photo slide by Patrick H. Briggs Courtesy John C. Ginter
Here's a nice simple booklet that has images of Baja California reptiles and amphibians such as the different varieties of Pituophis.
The booklet is authored by Ron H. McPeak. Check it out.
The image below of a San Martin Island Gopher Snake photographed from Hassler Cove, Isla San Martin March 10, 1999.
This image can be found along with many other Baja California reptiles that are detailed in the booklet;
Amphibians and Reptiles of Baja California by Ron H. McPeak