Common Name: Common King Snake
Scientific Name: Lampropeltis getula
There are ten recognised sub-species under the ‘Common King Snake’ banner, which can also be broken down even further into even more sub-species. Here are just a few of the sub-species that are classed as Common King Snakes:
California Kingsnake – Lampropeltis getula californiae
Mexican Black Kingsnake – Lampropeltis getula nigrita
Desert Kingsnake – Lampropeltis getula splendida
Eastern Kingsnake – Lampropeltis getula getula
Florida Kingsnake – Lampropeltis getula floridana
Speckled Kingsnake – Lampropeltis getula holbrooki
Eastern Black Kingsnake – Lampropeltis getula nigra
Blotched Kingsnake – Lampropeltis getula goini
Outer Banks Kingsnake – Lampropeltis getula sticticeps
Apalachicola Kingsnake – Lampropeltis getula meansi
As there are so many different sub-species of Common King snake, these figures may vary a little depending on the type of King Snake you have, but in general…
Colouring: King snakes come in every colour imaginable, which is why they have become popular has pets. Breeders have also developed many new varieties of colours, so trying to describe a common colouring for a kingsnake has become even more difficult. The colour variation between the different sub-species of common king snakes are so diverse that they can be either vibrant colours like the bright yellow on black of California Kingsnakes or be simply pure plain black like the Mexican Black. Either colour variation can be equally striking, that is why kingsnakes have such a great appeal.
Size: Common Kingsnakes are the largest of the kingsnakes and can grow up to 6 ft in Length, with the average being about 4ft.
Life Span: 15 years is average for a King Snake in captivity, but it is not uncommon for them to reach 20 years with appropriate care.
Origin: Most of the common King Snakes are native to North America, but some are also found in South America too.
Habitat: Common Kingsnakes are usually found in mountain regions, desert savannahs and occasionally in sparsely forested woodlands. The climate in their native homeland is quite dry, so they prefer low humidity levels in their habitat. Many of the common kingsnakes are normally diurnal (active by day), but when summer temperatures are high they often become more active by night to avoid the heat of the sun.
They have a relatively docile temperament and can be easily tamed. They are energetic and inquisitive and make very interesting pets. They are easy and safe to handle, growing to a manageable size and make a good choice for people who are new to snake keeping.
Hatchling kingsnakes tend to be a bit feisty, but will soon tame down with regular handling. They are likely to musk or bite when cornered, but this is a defensive tactic that will cease when the snake becomes more comfortable with your presence. King snake bites rarely hurt and should not deter you from keeping a kingsnake as a pet.
King Snakes are quite active snakes and will appreciate time outside the vivarium to exercise. Kings have been known to be a little nippy, but regular handling should calm your King Snake down in time. It is not uncommon for King Snakes to musk if they feel threatened. King snakes are powerful snakes, but are still easy to handle.
King Snakes in the wild will eat a very varied diet of rodents, birds, amphibians and other reptiles (including other snakes), but King Snakes in captivity can be fed entirely on mice or rats and still be healthy. The rodent should be of a appropriate size in comparison to the size of their mouth and be large enough to leave a bump in your King Snakes body once ingested.
Hatchlings start on pinky mice, one every 5-6 days and graduate up to an adult mouse every 7-10 days as they grow. Very large snakes may require 2 adult mice per feed or even the introduction of larger prey items such as rats. You may also feed a mature King Snakes on day old chicks to provide a variation in diet.
Do not feed your snake with live food, even a small mouse may bite or injure your snake. Shop brought frozen rodents are available from most pet shops or bought over the internet these can be thawed to room temperature and make an excellent all round food for your snake. Wild rodents carry parasites and should be avoided at all times.
Never handle your snake straight after a feed, as it will regurgitate its meal.
Aspen shavings may be used for King Snakes. The shavings cannot be cleaned and so have to be removed and replaced with fresh shavings when dirty. If you use aspen shavings the urine and feces can be scooped out with a cat litter scoop, and replaced with fresh aspen as needed. Be sure to remove soiled substrate as soon as possible; urine-soaked material will become a breeding ground for bacteria, which could harm your King Snake. If you use this type of substrate you will have to place your snake in a secure area to feed it; you do not want it to ingest any of the shavings.
At least once a month, all shavings should be removed and disposed of, and the entire enclosure cleaned and disinfected before new shavings are placed inside. This is particularly important if your King Snake has musked inside the vivarium, as the musk is a diluted form of excrement, which should be removed as soon as possible.
Do not use Cedar or Redwood Shavings these are toxic for all animals and should never be used in predator or prey enclosures. Cedar and redwood should not be used in constructing housing for any animal, nor in any furniture or paneling in a vivarium in which any animals are housed.
Newspaper: Layers of newspaper have been used for years in animal keeping. It is relatively absorbent when several layers are used, and inexpensive to replace. However, the inks used in printing are known to be harmful to animals. Unprinted sheets may be obtained at shops selling moving supplies, or roll ends may be obtained from some newspaper companies. As with printed newspaper, it is relatively absorbent when several sheets are used, especially when layered with paper towels. Unlike printed newspaper, the unprinted sheets and rolls are not impregnated with potentially harmful inks that could harm your King Snake.
Easily obtained and relatively inexpensive, paper towels make an excellent substrate for reptiles with belly injuries and those in the early stages of quarantine.
King Snakes are cold blooded and get heat from their surroundings. In the wild snakes bask in the sun to keep warm or move to a shady spot if they are too hot, this is called thermo-regulation. The ideal temperature for the hot area of your snake’s vivarium is around 27-33°C (81-91°F).
Heat should be provided using either a heat mat with thermostat or a bulb with a dimming stat on the roof of the vivarium surrounded by a bulb guard.
Heat mats should only cover between a third and a half of the floor space to allow your snake to thermo-regulate. This heat mat should be regulated by a thermostat to ensure that it does not overheat. Since a heat mat should provide sufficient heat to keep your king snake happy, a basic mat stat, like the Microclimate Ministat 100 or the Habistat Mat Stat, should be appropriate. These thermostats are available from reptile shops and online, are relatively cheap, and will ensure the heat source is regulated at a safe level.
All King Snakes need somewhere to hide and may become stressed if this is not provided. This could be a cardboard box with a hole cut into it, which can be easily replaced if it becomes soiled. Flower pots also make good hides for King Snakes.