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A Hillbilly Guide to Snakes: The California Kingsnake

Updated on July 30, 2012
Photograph by Vlad Butsky, Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
Photograph by Vlad Butsky, Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Lampropeltis Getula Californiae... The California Kingsnake


People love them for their beauty and rattlesnakes fear them for their dominance. The California Kingsnake is the most common snake from the United States that is kept as a pet. They are very interesting in both personality and aesthetics. They live naturally on the western side of the United States.

Photograph by Vlad Butsky, Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
Photograph by Vlad Butsky, Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
A striped California kingsnake. Public Domain.
A striped California kingsnake. Public Domain.
Public Domain.
Public Domain.

Appearance


Because California kingsnakes are such common pets they technically have a variety of morphs and even can be found in albino. However in the wild most California kingsnakes have black, brown, or dark blue/purplish bands that form a pattern with white or yellow bands running down the entire snake's body. Their scales almost have a shiny appearance, except when it's nearly time for them to shed. Personally, I've always thought that California kingsnakes were one of the coolest snakes in the world.

California kingsnakes can also come in a striped pattern instead of having the bands. The colors remain the same.

Adult California kingsnakes are typically between 30 and 40 inches. It's not unheard of for California kingsnaskes to get in the 5 or 6 foot range, but that is the max.


Public Domain.
Public Domain.
Photo by Calibas, This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license.
Photo by Calibas, This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license.

Habitat


Believe it or not, but the California kingsnake can be found in California. They also can be found throughout Arizona, parts of New Mexico, Mexico, Colorado, Oregon, and Utah. The California kingsnake is also an invasive species in Gran Canaria, Spain where once captive snakes have thrived and bred.

Like most kingsnakes, the California kingsnake can be found in forested areas, grasslands, and farm areas. The California kingsnake also thrives in some desert areas and at high elevations.

California kingsnake vs rattlesnake. Public Domain.
California kingsnake vs rattlesnake. Public Domain.
California kingsnake vs rattlesnake. Public Domain.
California kingsnake vs rattlesnake. Public Domain.
California kingsnake vs rattlesnake. Public Domain.
California kingsnake vs rattlesnake. Public Domain.
California kingsnake vs rattlesnake. Public Domain.
California kingsnake vs rattlesnake. Public Domain.

Food


California kingsnakes are nonvenomous constrictors that eat rodents, other reptiles, amphibians, etc.. Like most members of the kingsnake family, California kingsnakes aren't that picky about their food. Anything that looks like food and isn't too big can be eaten. All species of kingsnakes are immune to venom from the pit vipers of the U.S.. California kingsnakes are no exception and will readily eat the venomous snakes. I'm not saying that I condone such actions, but for educational purposes if you want to see a kingsnake eating a venomous snake, they can be easily found on Youtube. Rattlesnakes are known for looking and attacking intimidating. When approached by a kingsnake, the rattlesnake will lose it's tough guy composure. It will first attempt to get away. When the rattlesnake realizes it has no place to run it will lower it's head and prepare for a battle. Instead of trying to strike and deliver one deadly blow of venom, the rattlesnake will attempt heavy blows to injure the kingsnake. Unfortunately for the rattlesnake this doesn't really work out. The kingsnake will slowly approach the rattlesnake, and then with lightning speed will strike, wrap up, and suffocate the rattlesnake until it is dead. Even pet California kingsnakes have to kept separate from other snakes, as they will attempt to eat them.

California kingsnake vs a rattlesnake. Public Domain.
California kingsnake vs a rattlesnake. Public Domain.

Interactions With Humans


When approached in the wild, the California kingsnake will coil up in a ball and hiss. It may even slap it's tail against the ground to emulate a rattlesnake. When handled it may release a smelly white musk. If continually harassed the California kingsnake may bite. They aren't generally known for being super aggressive, but that doesn't mean that it won't fight to defend itself if it feels it is in danger.

As mentioned above, the California kingsnake is one of the most common pet snakes in the world. Juvenile snakes and snakes taken from the wild can be biters and nervous around humans, but they generally acclimate and become comfortable with humans fairly quickly. Of course that depends entirely on how the person in question handles and takes care of the snake.

An albino California kingsnake. Public Domain.
An albino California kingsnake. Public Domain.

Comments

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    • Phillbert profile imageAUTHOR

      Phillip Drayer Duncan 

      5 years ago from The Ozarks

      Thanks RooBee! I'm glad it was useful to you! Thanks for the comment!

    • RooBee profile image

      Arby Bourne 

      5 years ago from USA

      I love when I'm researching for work and I find some of my answers in a hub! And I really really love your copperhead story! Thanks. :D

    • Phillbert profile imageAUTHOR

      Phillip Drayer Duncan 

      5 years ago from The Ozarks

      Thanks for the comment craftybegonia! When I was little I lived in area that was infested with copperheads. They were everywhere. My mom was scared to let me play outside for a long time. At some point a big ol' kingsnake moved in under the house. The copperheads wouldn't come anywhere near the house. The king snake was as friendly as could be. I could walk up and pet it and play with it. It completely protected my backyard like a guard dog. All the areas outside the perimeter of the yard had so many copperheads it wasn't safe to walk, but the area around the house never had a single one again for as long as we lived there.

    • craftybegonia profile image

      craftybegonia 

      5 years ago from Southwestern, United States

      That is one scary-looking snake! We have rattlers where we live, all of us have encountered them, including our pets. None of us have been bitten, thank God! It's good to know how to escape a bite.

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