Colorado Photography of the American West

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20 July 2010

The Differences Between Bullsnakes and Rattlesnakes

Bullsnake FaceWe were taking our Sunday morning walk with the dogs, chatting and enjoying the scenery, when Ric jumped and said "Whoa!" He was looking down and I saw a three and a half foot snake coiled up right next to the path. I backed up quickly and then looked closely. Whew! It was a bullsnake. In the West, they make you jump because at first glance they can look like a Prairie Rattlesnake. But if you look at the head it is really very different. The bullsnake has a much smaller roundish head and their eyes have round pupils. Bullsnakes are very beneficial eating rodents and keeping the rattlers away so he was very welcome in our neighborhood.

Bullsnake coiled.
Bullsnake Coiled
On our Sunday morning walk we almost stepped on this bullsnake. They make you jump in surprise since we also have rattlesnakes in the area and they look similar at first glance.

Bullsnake close up.
Bullsnake Close Up
A bullsnake is feeling threatened by my camera and as they typically do begins lunging and backtracking at the same time in order to escape.

Rattlesnakes on the other hand, have larger heads that are triangle shaped with elliptical not round pupils. Their bodies are usually fatter too. And of course, there is that unmistakable rattle on the tail. If you have ever heard it you will never forget that sound. We almost lost our dog, Rob, to a snake bite last summer. So we are always glad when snake season is over and we do not have to watch where we step all the time. You just never know when that snake might not be a harmless bullsnake and instead be a rattlesnake with a venomous bite which can be fatal to humans and your best friend.

Prairie Rattlesnake
This Prairie Rattlesnake was found in the foothills of northern Colorado near my home several years ago.

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  1. glad this was a bullsnake and not a rattler. the outcome of the walk could have been so different. hope you enjoyed your walk. with the excitement of seeing a snake i'm sure it was memorable. great photos too. hope all is well.

  2. Loved your photos! Great closeups and info. on the differences of the two snakes! I'm glad I never came across either type hiking in the Rockies!!

    Tracey :-D

  3. Me and snakes aren't friends! But you have some great shots of them!

  4.'re brave...these are so full of texture and subtle colors.


Contemporary photography of the cities, landscapes, flora and fauna of the American West.
Julie Magers Soulen Photography