3 Types of Kingsnakes in Arizona! (ID Guide)

Finding kingsnakes in Arizona can be difficult!

Here’s why:

 

Most members of the genus Lampropeltis (kingsnakes) spend a lot of their time hidden beneath objects or underground. So while it’s not unheard of, it’s not very common to just stroll past one while walking outside.

 

Regardless, these non-venomous, mostly docile snakes are fascinating. For example, did you know that kingsnakes EAT venomous snakes? Believe it or not, it’s true!

 

Today, you’re going to learn about the 3 types of kingsnakes in Arizona!

 


#1. Speckled Kingsnake

  • Lampropeltis holbrooki

speckled kingsnake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are typically 36 to 48 inches in length.
  • Coloration is shiny black with small yellow, yellowish-green, or white specks, one in the center of almost every dorsal scale though the pattern of the speckles varies by individual.
  • The underside is white or yellow with clusters of black checkers and is sometimes more black than white.

 

The Speckled Kingsnake’s unique appearance resulted in the nickname “salt and pepper snake.” Look for them in fields along the forest’s edge, prairies, grasslands, stream valleys, pastures, and roadside ditches.

Speckled Kingsnake Range Map

speckled kingsnake range map

Credit – Virginia Herpetological Society

 

These kingsnakes are rather secretive and hard to find in Arizona!

 

In addition, they’re primarily nocturnal. As a result, they’re most frequently spotted crossing roadways in the morning or evening.

 

Like other kingsnakes, this species is a constrictor, which means they use their coils to asphyxiate their prey before consuming it. They feed on a wide variety of prey, including rodents, birds, bird eggs, reptiles, reptile eggs, frogs, and other snakes, including venomous species. SEE THE VIDEO BELOW! 🙂

 

Speckled Kingsnakes are generally quite docile and are often kept as pets. However, if disturbed, they may shake their tail, release a foul-smelling musk, and strike if grabbed. Sadly this species is considered threatened in parts of their range.

 


#2. California Kingsnake

  • Lampropeltis californiae

california kingsnake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 36 to 48 inches in length.
  • Most individuals are black or brown, with whitish bands running down their bodies.

 

The California Kingsnake is widespread across many types of habitats in Arizona.

 

Look for them in woodlands, grasslands, deserts, marshes, and even suburban areas! Most of the year, these kingsnakes are found out during the day, except during cold weather when they retreat underground to enter a hibernation-like state called brumation.

California Kingsnake Range Map

california kingsnake range map

Do you know how kingsnakes got the name “king?”

 

It refers to their ability to hunt down and eat other snakes! Incredibly, California Kingsnakes will even go after venomous rattlesnakes.

 

This species has the incredible adaptation to constrict its prey. In fact, California Kingsnakes have the strongest squeeze when compared to the size of their body! It’s thought they evolved this trait since their main diet consists of other reptiles, which don’t require as much oxygen as mammals.

 


#3. Sonoran Mountain Kingsnake

  • Lampropeltis pyromelana

sonoran mountain kingsnake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults reach up to 36 inches in length.
  • Coloration is red, black, and yellow, white, or cream bands with the black bands bordering the red.
  • The head is white with a black band over the eyes.

 

These kingsnakes are primarily found in mountainous areas in Arizona, with elevations between 3000 and 9000 feet above sea level. They occupy chaparral, conifer forests, juniper woodlands, and rocky areas and are frequently spotted along streams or near springs.

sonoran mountain kingsnake range map

Sonoran Mountain Kingsnakes are very secretive and often spend their days under rocks, logs, or in dense clumps of vegetation. They hunt at night, and like other kingsnakes, this species is a powerful constrictor. Lizards, birds, rodents, and other small snakes make up the majority of their diet.

 

Despite their mimicry of coral snakes, Sonoran Mountain Kingsnakes are NOT venomous!

 

So how do you tell the difference between a dangerous coral snake and a harmless Sonoran Mountain Kingsnake in Arizona?

sonoran mountain king vs coral snake

Just remember this rhyme and you’ll never have to worry! “If red touches yellow, you’re a dead fellow; if red touches black, you’re all right, Jack.”

 

Interestingly, they sometimes eat venomous snakes since they are immune to pit viper venom! But this doesn’t happen incredibly often because they generally prefer smaller prey.

 


Do you need additional help identifying a snake?

Try this field guide!

 


Which of these kingsnakes have you seen before in Arizona?

 

Leave a comment below!

 

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