4 Types of Kingsnakes in Florida! (ID Guide)

Finding kingsnakes in Florida 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 4 types of kingsnakes in Florida!

 


#1. Mole Kingsnakes

 

In Florida, there are two different types of Mole Kingsnakes, which are both considered subspecies of the Yellow-bellied Kingsnake.

prairie and northern mole kingsnake

Credit – Virginia Herpetological Society

 

Northern Mole Kingsnake:

  • (Lampropeltis calligaster rhombomaculata)

mole kingsnake

  • Found primarily in the Florida panhandle. If you count, these snakes normally have around 55 small, reddish blotches down their back.
  • Coloration is gray, light brown, or orangish with black-bordered darker brown, gray, or reddish-brown blotches down its body, which fade with age.
  • The head is indistinct from the body, and there is sometimes a dark line through the eye. Adults range from 30 to 40 inches in length.

 

South Florida Mole Kingsnake:

  • (Lampropeltis calligaster occipitolineata)

south florida mole kingsnake

  • Only found in the peninsula north of Lake Okeechobee, outside the Miami area, and west in Charlotte and DeSoto counties. They are not found anywhere except in Florida.
  • They are typically lighter in color and have around 75 black-bordered reddish-brown blotches on their body.
  • The head is indistinct from the body, and there is sometimes a dark line through the eye. Adults range from 30 to 40 inches in length.

 

Mole Kingsnakes prefer open habitats in Florida near forest edges. These snakes are difficult to find since they spend most of their time underground in old animal burrows or under logs and rocks. You’re most likely to spot one crossing the road at night.

 

The nocturnal and secretive nature of these kingsnakes means that they rarely come into contact with people. They’re non-venomous but may shake their tail as a warning which can sound a bit like a rattlesnake when done in dry leaves. They’re generally quite docile but may bite if grabbed.

 


#2. Eastern Kingsnake

  • Lampropeltis getula

eastern kingsnake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults typically range from 36 to 48 inches in length.
  • Coloration is shiny black with white or yellow chain-link bands, but some individuals may be entirely black.
  • Stout head and small beady eyes.
  • Also called the Common Kingsnake.

 

Eastern Kingsnakes thrive in various habitats in Florida!

 

Look for them in hardwood and pine forests, bottomlands, swamps, and wetlands, as well as farmlands and suburban areas. They are a terrestrial species but are often associated with water preferring riparian habitats along stream banks or marsh edges.

 

Eastern Kingsnake Range Map

eastern kingsnake range map

Credit – Virginia Herpetological Society

 

A very secretive species, the Eastern Kingsnake is frequently spotted when moving logs, boards, tin, or other objects they use for cover. They’re constrictors and feed on various types of prey, including rodents, lizards, birds, and turtle eggs. Incredibly, they’re immune to venom from pit-vipers and regularly feed on smaller venomous snakes like copperheads, cottonmouths, and rattlesnakes!

 

If disturbed, these snakes can mimic rattlesnakes by shaking their tails in dry leaves. They may also release a foul-smelling musk and bite if captured.

 

Unfortunately, the Eastern Kingsnake has seen dramatic declines in many areas. This is most likely due to habitat loss and degradation, imported fire ants, and disease.

 


#3. Scarlet Kingsnake

  • Lampropeltis elapsoides

scarlet king snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults typically range from 14 to 20 inches in length.
  • Coloration is alternating red, black, and yellow rings encircling the body; the yellow and red rings never touch.
  • Small head, barely distinct from the neck and a red snout.

 

Scarlet Kingsnakes can be found in pine flat woods, pine-oak forests, fields, agricultural areas, and occasionally urban environments. But they are hard to see because they are secretive and mostly stay underground. Look for them under logs, rocks, boards, and other debris. However, they’re also excellent climbers and are sometimes spotted on trees and buildings.

Scarlet Kingsnake Range Map

scarlet kingsnake range map

Credit – Virginia Herpetological Society

 

These vividly colored non-venomous snakes are sometimes mistaken for venomous coral snakes. In fact, they were used as stand-ins for venomous snakes in the movies “Snakes on a Plane” and “The Mummy Returns.”

 

So how do you tell the difference between a dangerous coral snake and a harmless Scarlet Kingsnake in Florida?

coral snake vs scarlet 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.”

 

These kingsnakes are generally non-aggressive. However, they may vibrate their tail if disturbed, producing a buzzing sound when in leaf litter. If grabbed, they may strike and release a foul-smelling musk.

 


#4. Short-tailed Kingsnake

  • Lampropeltis extenuata

short tailed kingsnake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults typically average between 14 and 20 inches in length.
  • Coloration is gray with black blotches or spots and sometimes an indistinct yellow or orange stripe running down the spine between blotches.
  • Slender, often pencil-thin with a dark brown or black head.

 

The Short-tailed Kingsnake is so named because its tail comprises less than 10% of its total length! They’re a fossorial species, which means they’re highly adapted to burrowing and spending time underground.

short tailed king snake range map

These little kingsnakes have specific habitat requirements and only live in sandy, upland parts of Florida. Look for them in pine or oak woodlands, coastal oak hammocks, or sand pine scrub. These snakes are incredibly hard to see and are very secretive.

 

The diet of the Short-tailed Kingsnake is limited as well. They feed almost entirely on small Black-crowned Snakes.

 

Though small, these snakes are known to be defensive when disturbed. They’ll often vibrate their tail, twitch their head, and may even hiss. If grabbed or pinned, they may strike.

 


Do you need additional help identifying a snake?

Try this field guide!

 


Which of these kingsnakes have you seen before in Florida?

 

Leave a comment below!

 

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