Throughout the Sonoran, Mojave and Chihuahuan deserts south into Baja and Mexico.
The Common Kingsnake is found in a wide variety of habitats: forests, woodlands, marshes, grasslands, and chaparral
or desert environments. It is often found near rocky outcrops and clumps of vegetation, as well as under rocks,
logs and debris from sea level to 7000 feet.
The Common Kingsnake is a nonvenomous member of the "harmless" Colubridae Family, which includes gopher
snakes, garter snakes and whip snakes. Mature adults are 30 to 85 inches long and come in a variety of colors and
patterns, usually chocolate brown to black.
Common Kingsnakes vary greatly in pattern and color. Most usually have a pattern of alternating black and white
bands, but these colors may vary to brown, white, cream, or pale yellow, depending on the region found. Some individuals
have black bellies, while others are nearly all black.
There are numerous subspecies and variations of the Common Kingsnake -- including the California Kingsnake (L.
g. californiae), the Arizona Desert Kingsnake (L.g. splendida) the Yuma Kingsnake (L.g. yumensis) and the Black
Kingsnake of Mexico (L.g. nigrita).
Common Kingsnakes should not be confused with Mountain Kingsnakes, which comprise a separate species (Lompropeltis
zonata). The noctural Mexican Kingsnake (Lompropeltis mexicana) has distinct red-brown crossbands or blotches and
occurs only in the Chihuahuan Desert.
The Kingsnake derives its name from its habit of eating other snakes, and is most famous for eating rattlesnakes,
copperheads and coral snakes. But it also feeds on other snakes, lizards, birds and their eggs, small mammals,
turtles and frogs. It is usually active in the morning and later afternoon but under very hot conditions will be
active at night.
Although regarded as a gentle snake, when threatened the Kingsnake hisses, strikes and vibrates its tail. When
attacked it will roll into a ball with its head in the center, smearing its attackers with musk and feces.
The Kingsnake locates and identifies rattlesnakes at night with its sense of smell. It immediately bites and surrounds
its victim with suffocating coils, as a Boa Constrictor would do. Since it is immune to the poison of venomous
snakes, the Kingsnake is little concerned with being bitten. When the rattlesnake is well exhausted, the Kingsnake
simply swallows it whole, while still alive.
Kingsnakes mate from March through June. The female lays a clutch of 4 to 20 eggs from May to August. The incubation
period varies between 47 and 81 days. Hatchlings are 8 to 13 inches in length and reach maturity in 3 to 4 years.
Once the female lays eggs, she shows no more interest in the young.