Reptiles are ectothermic and cannot control their own body temperatures. Because of this they will often be found laying in the sunlight to warm themselves so they may be more active.
Lazarus was doing just this when he was intentionally run over by a child on a bicycle. Witnesses prevented the child from causing Lazarus additional injury and he was brought to WERC with skull and jaw damage. The injuries were so severe that Lazarus did not move for several days and we thought he was probably dead. Eventually, he did move as if he had come back to life. The injuries to the jaw and skull prevent Lazarus from eating normally and reduce his ability to hunt effectively in the wild. For these reasons Lazarus has become part of the education program at WERC in 1989 where he helps to educate the community about the natural history of reptiles and the needs of wildlife in California. Lazarus lives in a large indoor enclosure that allows him to move freely about.
UPDATE: We are sad to say one of our most beloved and long lived educational ambassadors has passed away on 2.07.2023. Lazarus, our gopher snake, was at least the age of 35 years old. He was one of our first ever educational ambassadors that started WERC.
Lazarus’ story did not start off easy— he was found with children running over his head with their bikes. Luckily, one of the children knew this was not okay and went to grab an adult. After this is horrific incident, Laz was brought into the care of those at WERC. Dr. Quick, our vet at the time, treated his dire wounds but was unsure of his prognosis to recovery. Due to the diligent care and loving patience of Sue Howell and people at WERC, Laz was able to recover well enough to eat. Unfortunately, due to his injuries, he did suffer brain damage and was deemed unable to thrive on his own out in the wild. It was from here on that Lazarus became part of the team at WERC.
Over the last 34 years, Lazarus touched the lives of many with his story. Being a snake, many at first were weary of him but after some time spent with Laz and listening to his journey, onlookers would warm up to his scaley outside. They would come to see him as a life that was just wanted to live like the rest of us… Being robbed of that opportunity due to the acts of humans, his story went on to fuel WERC’s mission to inspire our community how to better cohabitate with our local wildlife and ecosystem more peacefully. Laz was no longer just a team member, he was family.
The last few months, Laz started to display some signs of declining health. WERC staff gave him some extra TLC to keep his last months with us as comfortable as he could be. This included weekly warm soaks and time spent hanging out with staff in the office.
While we are heartbroken he is no longer physically with us, his story and legacy will forever live on in the hearts of so many. We are so grateful we got to spend the 34 years we did with him. Rest easy Laz, thank you for all you did.
Gopher Snake Fast Facts
Length: 48-96" (120-240 cm).
Habits: Active by day, but may be nocturnal in hot weather.
Breeding: Female lays one or two clutches, 2-24 eggs each, in summer.
Habitat: The Gopher Snake has a variety of habitats ranging from sea level to mountains. Hide in rodent burrows, under logs and stones, and dig into loose soil.
Range: Southernmost British Columbia east to Wisconsin and south to southern California and southern Texas.
Prey: Valuable in controlling rodents. Eats small mammals (rodents, rabbits, ground squirrels, etc.) and birds, eggs. Sometimes lizards and insects. Kills by constriction.