gopher snake

David Mikesic/AP

For the first time more than 30 years, the Navajo Nation Zoo is not exhibiting snakes. As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, zoo officials made the decision to relocate the animals because many Navajos view them with deep suspicion.

Few sounds in nature are as instantly recognizable and terrifying as the sudden rattle of a pit viper. No matter how often you’ve heard it, it’s a sound that sends a jolt of adrenaline and raises the hair on the back of the neck.

But look closely, because maybe what you’re hearing isn’t a rattlesnake at all.

It might instead be a close mimic, a gopher snake. With their speckled, earth-tone appearance, these common snakes look something like rattlesnakes, but they aren’t dangerous. In fact, they are highly beneficial and eat large numbers of rodents.