In my opinion, this is the neatest genus of colubrids. There is a huge amount of variation both between and within the many species and subspecies, and their would-be "personality" is unmatched, not to mention their voracious appetites.
This Genus has always posed problems for taxonomists, as to just how many species there are. Oddly, the number of subspecies is seldom questioned, but which species the different subspecies belong in is a different story. Prior to the mid '80s, I believe, all subspecies east of the bullsnake's range(ie the Pine Snakes) were designated as Pituophis melanoleucas. All others in the US(ie the Bullsnake and Gopher Snakes) were Pituophis catenifer. In the mid to late '80s, Roger Conant's and The Audobon Society's field guides grouped them all into melanoleucas. Now, the old classification has been reintroduced, except the rare Louisiana Pine is considered its own species. Thus, we have:
Pituophis melanoleucas Pituophis deppei -melanoleucas - Northern Pine -deppei -mugitus - Southern or Florida Pine -jani -lodingi - Black Pine Pituophis ruthveni - Louisiana Pine Pituophis lineaticollis -lineaticollis Pituophis catenifer -gibsoni -sayi - Bull Snake -affinis - Sonoran Gopher -deserticola - Great Basin Gopher -annectans - San Diego Gopher -catenifer - Pacific Gopher -bimaris - Baja Gopher -pumilis - Santa Cruz Gopher -vertebralis - Cape GopherIn my opinion, making ruthveni a seperate species is absurd, and sayi might be a better fit in the melanoleucas species on account of a heavier build and a longer rostral scale than others in the catenifer group. Clearly, the eastern "Pines" are very different from the West coast "Gophers", but determining the definite barrier between catenifer and melanoleucas is rather difficult, especially when sayi varies so much over its huge range.
I have a young pair of P. m. sayi right now, and a hopefully gravid female Northern Pine. She should have some hatchlings this year from either another Northern or a nice yellow Bullsnake owned by Phil Ferkel. I got the female from Phil in May, and she had previously been paired with both. Phil has many varieties of Pituophis, and dabbles in hybrids as well. Anyone interested in any Bulls, Southerns, Northerns, Blacks, Sonorans, or San Diegans should drop me a line and I can let you know what he has or will have availible. Here is my collection:
These two, Brutus(anyone who could have seen his actions on the day I received him would understand this choice of names) on the left and Brownie on the right, are siblings produced by Bart Bruno. They are from Canadian specimens, presumably around Alberta. These pictures are a little deceiving as to their color - they are much more yellow than the pictures indicate, especially the male. Additionally, the female(of course) was starting to cloud up for a shedding cycle. Generally, more northerly specimens of Bulls are darker than the southern examples, but, as these illustrate, this isn't always the case. That's what's great about Bulls - no two look just alike, even from the same area, but all are attractive. I can't wait to see how these two develop as they mature.
(12/19) These two are really developing nicely. The male is getting very yellow, with medium brown blotches. The female is darker overall, and has more richly colored blotches on a more tannish background. They each measure over 27" now, as they have been growing between 2 and 3 inches per month.
(5/25) Both are just over 40" now, and taking adult mice with ease. I'm still trying to get a photo session together for some newer pictures.
(6/20) My female Northern laid 6 eggs on the 18th, so it looks as though she is gravid from one of the Pines, as it has only been 32 days since she was with the bull. Look for updates and pics as they develop...
(7/23) I finally got some pics made up of the Northern female, and her eggs, and also some newer, better shots of the two bulls.
Here is the female...
...and her six eggs:
The long thin one is 4 1/8", and the smallest one on the top left is ~ 3 3/4".
Here now are the new pics of the bulls, female on the left, male on the right:
Another pic of the male(the color of it is a bit off) is here.
Both are around 45" now, eating large adult mice, and are starting to "fill out" a bit.
(11/19)I have made a page for me and Phil's animals at members.tripod.com/~TheRobber/PSPituophis.html. Any future updates will be made there.