Scientific name: Lampropeltis
(Lampro= shiny; peltis=shields)
coast of North America; from the tip of Baja to southern Oregon, and
west coast of California to desert areas of Nevada and Arizona
woodlands, chaparral, farmland, river bottoms, grasslands, deciduous
and coniferous forests
Diet in the wild:
rodents, birds, lizards, frogs, snakes
Diet in the zoo:
carnivore diet; furry mice and other rodents
Location in the zoo: Herpetarium
The California Kingsnake varies in its color and
patterns from one snake to another. There are many variability in
morphology (appearance). One morphology is a snake with black or
dark-brown ground color with a yellow middorsal line. Another morphology
is a snake with dark-brown or black ground color consisting of 30-50 clear
whitish or yellowish rings perpendicular to the body length. This
snake has 23 rows of scales and has yellow dots on its temples. The
California Kingsnake has:
The Kingsnake is approximately 30-70 inches in length.
2-3 inches of the total length is the tail. The Kingsnake is typical
of most snakes in that its lower jaw unhinges enabling it to swallow its
meal. The lower jaw consists of two seperate halves that are connected
by elastic tissue. Pictures of numerous snakes can be found at
Photovault under Reptiles.
a small cylinder shaped head
19-25 rows of smooth and shiny scales at midbody
7 upper labials(lips)
2 anterior temporals
Kingsnakes usually are solitary creatures. They search for rodents,
lizards, frogs, etc. by themselves. The only time Kingsnakes
are not solitary is when they hibernate during cold weather.
During hibernation you can find many Kingsnakes at one site.
During the spring they separate and continue their solitary lifestyle.
This snake is a frequent consumer of other snakes including venomous
snakes and other Kingsnakes. They frequently eat other snakes
because the shape of snakes allow ease of swallowing. Kingsnakes
kill prey by looping around, constricting and squeezing its victim
with coils. The meal is swallowed head first as saliva lubricates
the victim's body. The ability of the jaw to unhinge makes it
easy for the Kingsnake to devour its prey. Eating a prey is
time and energy consuming. It was once thought that these snakes
were able to eat venomous snakes due to their immunity to the venom.
It is now known that Kingsnakes are not immune to venom but has tolerance
towards it. This snake can be aggressive if provoked.
Despite all the positive features of this snake, it also has some
negative features. This snake, similar to most snakes, has bad
eyesight due to the positioning of the eyes on the sides of the head.
This positioning of the eyes make it difficult for the snake to focus
although the California Kingsnake has good "close up" vision.
A prey has a better chance of survival if it stays still.
Special anatomical, physiological
or behavioral adaptations:
The Kingsnake's jaws are hinged, allowing them to swallow prey that
is larger than their head. They also have a tolerance towards
rattlesnake venom which enables them to kill and consume the rattlesnake.
If a large dose of venom is injected into the head or heart of the Kingsnake,
death may occur.
The California Kingsnake has many special features. It has a spine
consisting of 100-400 vertebrae and each vertebra is attached to a pair
of seperate, thin ribs. This anatomical adaptation allows the
snake to coil, climb and move in an S shape.
The Kingsnake can hear low frequency sounds and feel vibrations.
This enables them to sense an approaching animal well before the animal
actually reaches the area where the snake is located.
The Jacobson's organ and the snake's fork shaped tongue allow the snake
to smell its environment.
Kingsnake is oviparous. It lays approximately fifteen eggs.
It mates from March to June and lays its eggs from May to August.
Six to ten weeks later the eggs hatch revealing kingsnakes that are
8-13 inches long.
Similar to most reptiles, the snake does not
take care of its young after they hatch. In the wild, the snake
lays its eggs once a year although it is possible for it to lay eggs
twice a year.
Comments about the California Kingsnake of the
Fort Worth Zoo:
I conducted a phone interview with Steve Hammack
of the Fort Worth Zoo. He talked about the many phases of the
California Kingsnake. There are a variety of Kingsnakes scattered
throughout North America. The color of the snakes depend on
the location of the snake. The Kingsnake with black and yellow
rings located at the Forth Worth Zoo is the one he spoke about.
He stated that most Kingsnakes of this phase are located in the deserts
of Baja California. The snake at the zoo is a female that was
bought from a breeder. The snake was not actually a wild animal
captured from Baja California.
This snake did not appear very physically active.
It did not move much. I noticed how shiny the skin appeared and the
small head size relative to the body. The kingsnake is a very docile
reptile and it is very easy to keep it in captivity. Due to this
fact these snakes are frequently bred and sold to the public. There
have been some cases where some Kingsnakes have been captured from the
wild and sold to consumers. I disagree with this act simply because
wild animals that are used to their natural habitat and freedom should
not be captured and caged.
| Source Links:
Pictures of albino and normal ringed California Kingsnake
made possible by Jeff's
Steve Hammack of the Forth Worth Zoo
Jane P. Resnick, Snakes; copyright 1996; Pps.
Hobart M. Smith and Edmund D. Brodie, Jr., Reptiles
of North America; copyright 1982; Pps.6 and 178
Kingsnakes and Milksnakes at:
Common Kingsnake at: www.hoglezoo.org
and Amphibians at the Fort Worth Zoo