Due to its limited range, reclusive nature and low numbers, the Louisiana pine snake is perhaps one of the least well understood large snakes in the United States (10). However, a handful of studies exist which have given some insight into its mysterious life. The Louisiana pine snake is non-venomous (4), relying instead on its powerful muscles to crush its prey. Its primary source of food is Baird’s pocket gopher (Geomys breviceps) (1) (4) (9), and it is often found in or immediately adjacent to pocket gopher burrow systems (10). However, the Louisiana pine snake is also likely to feed on other small mammals, as well as birds, bird and turtle eggs, and sometimes lizards (2) (4) (9).
The Louisiana pine snake is likely to hunt pocket gophers within their underground burrows, moving rapidly through the burrow and then using its body to pin the gopher to the side and crush it. If the gopher backfills the burrow to prevent the snake’s advance, the Louisiana pine snake is usually able to use its head and neck to dig through the barrier (9).
Over half of the Louisiana pine snake’s time is spent below ground, usually within a pocket gopher burrow (4). This snake has been reported to be most active in the late morning and mid-afternoon, and only makes short-range movements above ground (4), typically from one gopher burrow to another (1) (4). The Louisiana pine snake also hibernates inside a pocket gopher burrow during the winter months (4) (10) (11), but unlike the pine snake (P. melanoleucus)it does not appear to excavate its own burrows, instead just slightly enlarging pre-existing chambers (11).
Similarly to its close relative the gopher snake (Pituophis catenifer), the Louisiana pine snake may exhibit an aggressive display when approached or provoked, hissing loudly, spreading its head and sometimes vibrating its tail (2).
Most information on reproduction in the Louisiana pine snake is from captive breeding studies. In captivity, this species mates around March and lays its eggs from April to May (2), usually around 21 days after mating (4). The Louisiana pine snake has an exceptionally small clutch size of three to five eggs, which is the smallest clutch of any North American snake (4). However, its eggs are remarkably large, measuring up to 11.8 centimetres in length and 3.4 centimetres in diameter, making them the largest of any snake in the United States (2) (4).
The eggs of the Louisiana pine snake are likely to be laid in an underground chamber and hatch after 58 to 66 days. The hatchlings measure an impressive 44 to 56 centimetres in length (2), with their large size potentially being an adaptation that allows them to quickly grow large enough to prey on pocket gophers (9). The young Louisiana pine snakes are likely to become sexually mature at around 3 years old, when they reach a total length of at least 120 centimetres (4).