Animals / Reptiles

The Bull Snake

Синонимы и названия на других языках

Order: squamata

Family: colubridae

Genus: pituophis

Species: Pituophis melanoleucus sayi.


The bull snake can be found throughout the whole of North America, from Mexico to Canada.

Their range is massive: they live both in prairies and in the mountains (2800 m above the sea level), but mostly they prefer damp areas. 

Внешний вид

An adult bullsnake averages about 2 m, and it weighs around 4 kg.

It is a large powerful snake with keeled scales. It has a large and rounded head. The colouring is normally yellow-brownish with large brown or red spots. Such color makes a perfect disguise and the snake is not seen on the background of the substrate. 


It is a nervous and timid snake that prefers to hide from people. In captivity it doesn’t like to see movement behind the walls of the enclosure.

Nevertheless, they can be tamed and then they take food from the tweezers, can be handled and act friendly towards people.

It is a burrowing species. 

Содержание и уход

The enclosure for this snake should be horizontal and large, about 100х55х50 cm. Its walls should be high enough for putting inside a thick layer of substrate (about 8 cm). As substrate you can use sphagnum, potting soil, red turf, large-size sand. Your bullsnake will also want a couple of branches for climbing and hiding. It is important not to over-wet the substrate, it has to be damp, but not completely wet. The snake will also need a small bowl with fresh clean water (has to be changed daily).

Ambient temperature should be between 22 – 24°C at night and around 26°C at daytime. It I best to maintain the temperature with the help of a heat mat or a heat cord.

The humidity should be about 60%, so from time to time you will have to mist the enclosure.

The bullsnake needs 10-12 hours of light daily from fluorescent lamps. 


In the wild the bullsnake eats frogs and tadpoles, toads, newts, fish, lizards, mice, small birds, snails, spiders and different insects.

In the captivity the main food for the bullsnake is small rodents (mice and rats). You have to feed the snake with the help of tweezers so that the rodents don’t injure the snake. Your snake will also need vitamins and mineral supplements. 


The bullsnake is very nervous; when disturbed, it hisses and bites. But it is not venomous.

Specimens that were born in captivity get used to people much quicker and interact with them much better.

So it is best to buy a snake from a breeder, and not the one that was caught in the wild.

It is a low-maintenance snake that requires live food though. 


If the snake refuses to eat, it can be caused by stress, unsuitable food, or it can happen that the snake just is not hungry.  You should not try and force the food into the snake: they can live without food for a long time without any damage for their health. You should only start worrying if your snake doesn’t eat for several months. Then you need to analyze its living conditions and the menu prior to this situation. In the worst case you can force-feed the snake.

Snakes can vomit because of stress, illness or if the prey was too big. Also they can vomit if it was fed during shedding or if the temperature in its enclosure is not suitable. After vomiting you mustn’t feed the snake for 7-10 days, and then you can offer it food taking into account the previous mistakes.

Shedding is not a disease, it is a necessary step in the snake’s growth. Its eyes get milky, their color grows paler and the skin starts coming off. During this time you should be extra careful about the humidity and clean water in the enclosure.

Mites are small parasites that live on the snake’s skin. They stick on the snake’s body between the scales and suck its blood. This can make the snake lethargic and it can turn down the food.  To get rid of mites you need to use the weak solution of the same medicine which is used against ticks on cats and dogs. You will also have to disinfect the whole enclosure.

Respiratory diseases are usually caused by potentially pathogenic bacteria if the immune system of the snake doesn’t function properly either due to a stress or to unsuitable living conditions. The symptoms include gasping, open mouth, runny nose. These diseases are treated by the injections of antibiotic called Baytril. 


The bullsnake is an egg-laying species.

In the captivity they breed very rarely.

They get sexually mature at the age of 2-3 years old, when they reach the length of about 90 cm. Before mating a brumation period is required. The brumation lasts for about 3 months at the temperature of 12-18 degrees. It has to be decreased and then increased back gradually. After the brumation a male and a female are put together. After mating the female has to be kept in a warmer enclosure, with ambient temperature of about 26 degrees. After 60 days you have to put into the enclosure a box with sphagnum wher the female will lay 12-15 eggs. Hatchlings start eating pink mice when the yolk sac is dissolved.   

Average life span is 12-16 years. 

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