Finding kingsnakes in Utah 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 2 types of kingsnakes in Utah!
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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 Utah.
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. Sonoran Mountain Kingsnake
- Lampropeltis pyromelana
- 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 Utah, 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 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 Utah?
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 Utah?
Leave a comment below!