3 Types of Kingsnakes in Kansas! (ID Guide)

Finding kingsnakes in Kansas 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 Kansas!

 


#1. Prairie Kingsnake

  • Lampropeltis calligaster calligaster

prairie kingsnake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 30 to 40 inches in length.
  • Coloration is typically gray or light brown with darker gray, brown, or reddish-brown blotching, sometimes outlined in black, down the length of their body which fades with age.
  • They have a pale or yellowish underside, and their head is indistinct from their body.
  • The Prairie Kingsnake is a subspecies of the Yellow-bellied Kingsnake.

 

Look for Prairie Kingsnakes in Kansas in open habitats, such as fields, farmland, rocky hillsides, and open woodlands. They spend most of their time underground and are found under rocks, logs, and old animal burrows throughout their active period and for winter hibernation.

 

Prairie Kingsnake Range Map

prairie and northern mole kingsnake

Credit – Virginia Herpetological Society

 

These snakes feed on a wide variety of prey, such as mice, lizards, other snakes (including other Prairie Kingsnakes), insects, birds, bird eggs, and amphibians. They constrict their prey, coiling around and suffocating it before consuming.

 

If disturbed, the Prairie Kingsnake may try to warn perceived threats by mimicking a rattlesnake. They accomplish this mimicry by shaking the tip of their tail in dry leaf litter. However, these snakes are non-venomous and don’t typically bite, but they will release a foul-smelling musk if grabbed!

 

This species is considered of least concern and doesn’t seem to face any significant conservation risks. However, they are sometimes run over when crossing roads or killed because they are mistaken for being venomous. Like many other kingsnakes, this species is sometimes kept as pets.

 


#2. 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 Kansas!

 

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.

 


#3. Western Milksnake

  • Lampropeltis gentilis

 

western milksnake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults typically range from 15 to 34 inches in length.
  • Coloration is whitish, black, and reddish or orange bands, with the reddish-orange bands being bordered by black.
  • The snout is blackish and sometimes features white flecking, and the underside may have extensions of the bands or be more whitish.

 

Western Milksnakes can be found in Kansas in open sagebrush, grasslands and are occasionally seen in suburban areas. They’re a secretive species frequently found under objects like rocks, logs, boards, and other debris.

Western Milksnake Range Map

western milksnake range map

Credit – Virginia Herpetological Society

 

Because of their coloration, they are often confused with venomous coral snakes. But luckily, there is an easy way to tell the difference. Just remember this rhyme:

 

“If red touches yellow, you’re a dead fellow; if red touches black, you’re all right, Jack.”

coral snake vs western milksnake

 

These snakes aren’t picky about food and will feed on small mammals, birds, bird eggs, other snakes, lizards, reptile eggs, and occasionally worms and insects. They actively hunt down their prey and use their coils to constrict the life out of them.

 

Though they’re usually docile when handled, Western Milksnakes do exhibit strong defensive behaviors when disturbed. You can expect them to vibrate their tail (like a rattlesnake), and they may even rear up and strike!

 


Do you need additional help identifying a snake?

Try this field guide!

 


Which of these kingsnakes have you seen before in Kansas?

 

Leave a comment below!

 

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