It was a typical Thursday in our online newsroom when a fellow reporter shared with us a Reddit picture of what looked to be a huge slithering snake on the Cherry Creek Trail.
“Never going outside again,” Nate said.
“I live 26 miles from here, and that’s still too close,” Paolo said, adding later that he would cry if he saw this snake in person.
Francie helpfully informed Paolo that snakes move really fast and this one could probably be at his doorstep in 10 seconds. She also admitted, “This is the third time this week I’ll need to tuck my pants into my socks.”
(We couldn’t get permission to use the Snake On A Trail photo so you get these special visuals created by Kevin. Here’s a photo of the creature posted by Reddit user orange69er, who “came across this unit on the Cherry Creek Trail.”)
I like snakes. But I get the aversion. They seem slimy and unpredictable. It doesn’t help that probably the best-selling book of all-time starts with a villainous snake tricking a woman into eating a piece of fruit that sends the entire human race on a path toward endless repentance, as the story goes.
Like most snakes, this Denver “thicc boi,” as described by one Reddit user, isn’t really dangerous to humans. But this specimen is rather large and has a lot of teeth.
It’s a bullsnake, also known as a gopher snake, a non-poisonous creature that’s really common in Colorado, according to wildlife experts. They can be somewhat aggressive if they are provoked. So don’t get in its face, because that face has plenty of teeth in it, said Tina Jackson, a species conservation coordinator with Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
“We don’t recommend people handle any wildlife, so if you do you see a snake like that along the side of a trail, it’s probably best to still keep your distance, not try to pick it up,” Jackson said. “They can still bite, there’s just no venom that goes with it.”
And yeah, this Cherry Creek Trail unit is a pretty big one.
“It looks gigantic,” said Josh Rolfe, a lieutenant with Denver Animal Protection. “I’ve never seen a bullsnake that large, but the perspective is also weird. So I can’t really get an accurate sense of where the person is and how big this snake is.”
Rolfe said his department gets calls about bullsnakes routinely, probably a couple of times a month. And they are usually 2 or 3 feet, maybe 4 feet long. The Cherry Creek Trail Thicc Boi is probably 4 to 5 feet long, Jackson said, adding that it’s hard to be precise because the snake is slithering in the photo.
Snake fact: Bullsnakes try to trick other animals, including us, into thinking they’re rattlesnakes.
They mimic rattlers to intimidate potential predators, Jackson said. Bullsnakes coil up just like rattlesnakes. They even puff their cheeks out to make their head more triangular.
And they rattle — in two different ways. If there are leaves or other debris around, they flick their tails on it to mimic the rattle sound. Or they can do an impersonation (insnakeation?) with their breath. They gasp in a way that sounds like a rattle.
“It’s one of their defense mechanisms to try to convince anything that might be nearby that they are a rattlesnake because if they convince us or a coyote or a dog or a hawk that they’re a rattlesnake, that predator might leave them alone,” Jackson said.
Jackson joked that bullsnakes are going to be so excited to get this press coverage. After all, they try so hard to convince us they’re rattlers, but rattlers get all the attention.