Finding kingsnakes in California can be difficult!
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 California!
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#1. California Kingsnake
- Lampropeltis californiae
- 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 California.
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
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.
#2. California Mountain Kingsnake
- Lampropeltis zonata
- Adults typically range from 20 to 50 inches in length.
- Coloration is bands of black, red, and off-white or grayish-white. Red bands, bordered by black bands are the widest.
- The snout is typically black but may have some red.
The California Mountain Kingsnake is a habitat generalist. They’ll occupy various habitats, including coniferous forests, pine-oak woodlands, riparian woodlands, chaparral, manzanita, and coastal sage scrub. They prefer wooded areas near streams, rocky outcrops, or rotting logs that provide cover.
These kingsnakes are constrictors that feed on a wide variety of prey. Lizards, amphibians, nesting birds, bird eggs, and other snakes (including their own species) make up most of their diet.
These secretive snakes spend much of their time under objects like logs, underground, or in rock crevices. They hibernate starting in November and generally emerge in February or April.
Though brightly colored, this species is non-venomous.
#3. Coast Mountain Kingsnake
- Lampropeltis multifasciata
- Adults range from 20 to 50 inches in length.
- Coloration is bands of black, red, and off-white or grayish-white. Red bands, bordered by black bands, are the widest.
- The snout is generally black but may have some red.
This kingsnake species is found ONLY in California!
Coast Mountain Kingsnakes occupy various habitats but are generally found near streams in areas with good cover. So if you find one, which is rare, have no fear because they are NOT venomous!
They are nocturnal during hot, dry weather and spend most of the day underground, in rock crevices, or under logs or other cover objects. However, in cooler weather in the spring or fall, they may be diurnal or even crepuscular, meaning they are active during twilight hours.
Do you need additional help identifying a snake?
Try this field guide!
Which of these kingsnakes have you seen before in California?
Leave a comment below!