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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 06, 2021

Check Out These Ssseriously Cool Common Kingsnake Facts

Discover interesting and fun common kingsnake facts for kids.

If you would like to keep a reptile as a pet but don't have enough information on it, this article about common kingsnakes is for you!

Common kingsnakes belong to the Colubridae family of non-venomous snakes. Colubrids are the most common species of snakes in the world. The name of this family is derived frome the Latin word 'coluber' which means 'snake'. They belong to the largest and most diverse family of snakes. Its scientific name, Lampropeltis getula, was given by Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish zoologist and taxonomist in 1766. The word 'Lampropeltis' means a 'shiny shield' in Greek, indicating that the snake has a shiny shield-like skin. The common kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula) has many common names such as- eastern kingsnake, black kingsnake, and speckled kingsnake. Occasionally kingsnakes are cannibalistic, even within their own species. The name king snake was assigned to this species because they feed on snakes that are venomous and harmful. Ingesting their venom has zero to no effect on these snakes, including rattlesnakes and copperheads.

The common kingsnake distribution occurs in northern Mexico, central North America, from the Pacific coast all the way to the Gulf coast. The common kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula) has several subspecies, including the black kingsnake, Brooks' kingsnake, Florida kingsnake, speckled kingsnake, desert kingsnake, Mexican black kingsnake, and the California kingsnake.

Learn more about some other reptiles from our black mamba facts and grass snake facts pages.

Common Kingsnake Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a common kingsnake?

The common kingsnake, like its name suggests, is a snake from the Colubridae family belonging to the order Squamata and the class Reptilia.

What class of animal does a common kingsnake belong to?

The common kingsnake is a reptile belonging to the Animalia kingdom.

How many common kingsnakes are there in the world?

Accurate data about their population size is not available. However, the IUNC Red List of Threatened Species has classified common kingsnakes as species of Least Concern.

Where does a common kingsnake live?

The common kingsnake range extends all over the United States, especially North America. They can be found in northern Mexico and Gran Canaria as well.

What is a common kingsnake's habitat?

The common kingsnake habitat includes grasslands, hardwood forests, deserts, abandoned fields-farms, low mountains, and sandy regions. Common kingsnakes are active in the day from March to late October. They hibernate in caves and burrows during winters and come out again when the climate is warm.

Who do common kingsnakes live with?

These snakes are solitary in nature and live alone. They temporarily pair up with other snakes during the mating season. They do not stay back and care for their eggs or young hatchlings either.

How long does a common kingsnake live?

Kingsnakes have a good lifespan in captivity and live up to 25-30 years. However, they are only live up to nine years in the wild.

How do they reproduce?

Common kingsnakes reach sexual maturity when they are two to three years of age. During the mating season, males are competitive and aggressive towards each other, so they often get into fights to showcase their physical dominance by getting on top of their opponent and flattening their head on the ground, especially if a female is nearby. The mating season lasts from March to August. The male snakes seek out females by tracking pheromones left behind by them. While mating, males lie atop females and bite their necks. Copulation among snakes can last for several hours. Kingsnakes are oviparous, meaning they lay eggs and they reproduce through the process of internal fertilization.

Females lay a clutch of 21-24 eggs in one breeding season. These eggs are laid in moist and secluded places e.g. debris or rotten logs. The female kingsnake leaves her eggs after laying them in a safe place. The eggs are hatch in two to three months. The hatchlings are independent from the moment they are born. They are brightly colored and prey on small snakes, lizards, and rodents in order to survive.

What is their conservation status?

The IUNC Red List of Threatened Species has classified common kingsnakes as a species of Least Concern. However, in the past few years, some parts of the United States have listed them as species of special concern because of the rapid population decline of the Florida kingsnake. Scientists and zoologists are also concerned about the population of eastern kingsnakes in the southeastern coastal plain and Florida. These unfortunate circumstances are the results of the excessive pet trade, road fatalities or accidents, and lack of suitable habitats. Fire ants are also partly responsible for the populations' decline as they compete with these snakes for food, shelter, and other survival resources.

Common Kingsnake Fun Facts

What do common kingsnakes look like?

Physical characteristics of common kingsnakes vary on a large scale because they have multiple subspecies such as the eastern kingsnake and Brooks' kingsnake. Most of them have bright and vibrant patterns on contrasting pale-colored bodies. These patterns are usually multi-colored bands or speckles in yellow or white. Common kingsnakes are glossy black-blue in color covered with brown rings or rather a chain-like pattern. The number of rings or chain patterns varies from 21-26 on each snake. Whereas, the California kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula californiae) displays two different patterns, the common ringed pattern and a more rare striped form. The eastern kingsnake has an uncanny resemblance to a common kingsnake. Some do not consider them as different snakes for the same. Kingsnakes from the coastal plains have wider bands, while those found in mountainous areas have thinner bands. Speckled kingsnakes have yellow or white speckles all over their body.

Discover kingsnake facts that will amaze you.

How cute are they?

A common kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula) looks cute when it's a neonate. It is not as cute when it grows up because the head, neck, and body become thicker and longer. These snakes may not be cute when they grow up, but they are definitely attractive thanks to their beautiful colored patterns and vibrant and colorful bands, stripes, rings, or yellow or white speckles.

How do they communicate?

Communication among common kingsnakes (Lampropeltis getula) is not researched enough to provide any exclusive information but snakes, in general, use the vomeronasal system to analyze chemical cues in their surroundings. Snakes leave a trail of chemicals called pheromones to communicate with other snakes. Analysis of pheromones is critical as it allows the snakes to share their gender and reproductive condition with each other.  Male species are very competitive and unsympathetic towards each other. To showcase their dominance and strength, they engage in combat and try getting on top of their opponent to pin its head on the ground. Snakes have internal ears without eardrums. Their ears are directly connected to their jaw. Vibrations from the ground caused by various factors such as footsteps and other animal movements are received by snakes through their jaws, connected to the inner ears that relay signals to the brain. They can hear sounds of low frequency and are often considered to be deaf.  Snakes usually hiss or growl when they become defensive, aggressive, or feel threatened.

How big is a common kingsnake?

The common kingsnake size can reach up to 34.3-60 in (87.2-153 cm).

How fast can a common kingsnake move?

The speed of a common kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula) is unknown. However, kingsnakes like sneaking up to their prey to catch it off guard. If they feel threatened by the presence of another animal, they flee. The banded and striped pattern on kingsnakes, such as the eastern kingsnake, helps them camouflage and merge with the surroundings as they run away from predators.

How much does a common kingsnake weigh?

Common kingsnakes weigh about 10-80 oz (225-2,268 g). Their weight depends on their diet and overall well-being.

What are the male and female names of the species?

Kingsnakes do not have separate names for their male and female species. Therefore, this species are denoted just as males and females.

What would you call a baby common kingsnake?

Baby kingsnakes are called neonates or snakelets.

What do they eat?

The common kingsnake diet includes other smaller snakes, including venomous snakes, turtle eggs, lizards, birds, scorpions, and small mammals. The venom ingested by them after eating other snakes has no effect on them as they are immune to it, just like the king cobra. This is how they got the name, kingsnake. Large predators like coyotes and snapping turtles prey on them.

Are they poisonous?

An animal is considered poisonous if they are toxic to touch or eat. As kingsnakes eat other venomous snakes, they automatically ingest their venom as well. This has no effect on them but can be dangerous to humans if consumed, given that snakes are a staple food in some cultures. Therefore, they are poisonous.

Would they make a good pet?

Yes, these snakes are very popular as exotic reptile pets. They are peaceful, friendly and will not strangle you or cause any harm. Plus, feeding them is easy as their diet includes bugs, spiders, earthworms, bird meat, red meats, and eggs. Their patterns and colors are beautiful and the reason why many people keep them as pets.

Did you know...

A kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula) is called a 'farmers' friend' because they prey on crop-damaging rodents and venomous snakes. Having them around is beneficial to farmers.

There are 10 species of kingsnakes and a total of 45 subspecies. The species, just like most reptiles, are cold-blooded.

As their teeth are arranged in six rows, the upper jaw has double rows and are attached to the bone’s surface instead of roots. Kingsnakes use constriction to kill their prey. Constriction is a method that snakes use to immobilize several small mammals by squeezing and suffocating them.

Common kingsnakes are important for maintaining the balance of our ecosystem.  As predators, they control the population of several animals by hunting them such as harmful and venomous snakes that cause harm to humans and pet animals, rodents, and smaller birds that damage crops and agricultural produce. They also serve as food to larger predators, thus maintaining the balance.

Are common kingsnakes venomous?

Yes, but their venom is not harmful to humans. If you come across a kingsnake, do not let your fears get the best of you and kill it. This species is very peaceful and will not cause any harm to you.

What are the types of kingsnakes and how are they different?

There are many snakes belonging to this species. Here are the names of some other kingsnakes, including milk kingsnake, speckled kingsnake, black kingsnake, and short-tailed kingsnake.  All of them have different colors, patterns, and sizes. The toxicity of their venom varies and geographical locations as well. There are about 45 subspecies of these kingsnakes.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other reptiles from our Burmese python facts and sea snake facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable Common kingsnake coloring pages.

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