Species group: Kingsnakes and Milksnakes
Scientific name: Lampropeltis californiae
The California Kingsnake is one of the first snakes to have been bred in captivity on a large scale, and remains extremely popular. Among the most attractive of North America’s serpents, it is hardy, easy to handle and breed, and can be kept in modestly-sized terrariums.
The California Kingsnake is found in California, southern Oregon, western and southern Nevada, southern Utah, Arizona, and northern Mexico (Baja California and Sonora). Formerly snake-less Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands off northwestern Africa is now home to an introduced population of California Kingsnakes.
This highly adaptable creature is equally at home in forests, woodlots, overgrown fields, grasslands, deserts, thorn scrub, swamps, farms, ranches or well-vegetated suburban yards. California Kingsnakes often take up residence under refuse and in abandoned buildings.
Appearance / Health:
California Kingsnake populations vary greatly in appearance, with natural “oddities” being quite common. Most range from brown to black in color, and are marked with white stripes or bands. Hobbyists have produced an astonishing array of color and pattern morphs, as well as hybrids with various Rat Snakes. California Kingsnakes range from 2 ½ to just over 4 feet in length.
Well-cared-for California Kingsnakes are quite hardy, with captive longevities often exceeding 20 and sometimes 30 years. “Blister disease” and other skin infections can take hold if your pet is kept in a damp terrarium, and as with most snakes they may be subject to mites or, more rarely, inclusion body disease, and other ailments.
Behavior / temperament:
Young California Kingsnakes may be defensive, but most calm down quickly and take well to handling. Kingsnakes sometimes develop the unusual habit of nosing one’s hand and then biting down on it. This seems more of a “trial taste” than aggression, as even calm, long-term captives will behave in this manner. As with all snakes, they will also bite when stressed and must be handled with care.
Hatchlings may be raised in 5-10 gallon aquariums, while average-sized adults require a 20-30 gallon tank. The screen top should always be secured with clips or locks. A hide box should always be available. Newspapers, washable terrarium liners, eucalyptus mulch or aspen bedding work well as substrates. Some types of wood chips can lodge in the mouth and cause wounds during feeding; feed your snake in a bare-bottomed enclosure to prevent this.
Ambient temperature: 77-82 F; basking temperature: 85-90 F. Large enclosures are necessary if a thermal gradient (areas of different temperatures) is to be established. Thermal gradients allow snakes to regulate their body temperature by moving from hot to cooler areas.
These powerful constrictors take a surprisingly-wide range of prey, including chipmunks, mice and other rodents, birds and their eggs, frogs, turtle eggs and hatchlings, other snakes, lizards and their eggs, salamanders and large invertebrates. This and relative species have evolved immunity to the venom of rattlesnakes and other pit vipers, and add these to the diet regularly. Pets do fine on a diet comprised solely of mice. If housed in pairs, Kingsnakes should be watched carefully and separated at feeding time, as they favor nothing more than another snake as a meal.
California Kingsnakes sometimes breed without temperature manipulation, but more consistent success will be had if your pets are chilled to 50 F (after a 2 week fast) for 3-5 months. Mating occurs from March to June in most regions, with the eggs being deposited 55-70 days thereafter. Well-fed females may produce 2 or 3 clutches annually. At an incubation temperature of 80-82 and 90-100% humidity, the 12 inch-long youngsters hatch in 50-80 days.
Written by Frank Indiviglio
great eaters, wonderful colors, healthy snake, good temperaments, highly recommended snake
musk alot, best escape artists, master escape artists, quickness, defensive snakes, need large prey
undertank heater, albino king
My Dear Snaky - a Childhood Pet
Please be aware that I had this pet as a child. I'm putting down that he (she?) was easy to care for, but to be honest my mom took care of him. As I recall, we had lots of kingsnakes in the back yard and the gully behind the back yard, and we caught several of them, and we were allowed to play with them and kept this one in the house. My mom bought mice for him.
These snakes are absolutely beautiful to look at. You have to know the markings so you don't confuse them with a poisonous snake, as part of their defense in the wild is to imitate the look of a coral snake. Fortunately, our mom knew the difference. Also, in our region of California, it would have been very rare or impossible for us to encounter a coral.
I am so glad I got to have this pet. He was so sweet and would wrap himself around your hand or arm. We were taught to respect all of nature because of this wonderful pet. We even learned at a young age that some animals eat other animals, and I think that was healthy for us. We were not allowed to play with the mice, but we were allowed to have pet rats, and had a series of those.
None of us have ever had a fear of snakes as a result, and know to get information before assuming a snake is either a helpful snake that keeps the rodent population at bay OR a poisonous snake that should be avoided or removed. We know that snakes are not slimy, but cool and pleasant to the touch. We know that they shed their skins from time to time and that it's normal and natural. We even know what a snake skeleton looks like, as we collected one from the yard!
Overall, I totally recommend getting a pet snake from a store for your kids and teaching them how to be gentle with a pet and keep the cage clean. It will make them much better pet owners in the future and help them love and understand the huge variety of animals on this planet. :).
From AndreaRobinson Aug 23 2015 2:15PM
It's no hidden secret that snakes eat rats and mice, but some may not understand the importance of sizing! A fuzzy is just a notch above a pinky, so there is added size and will fill up your snake just a bit more. Some snakes will stay so small they only live on pinkies, while other (general pets) move up to rabbit sized meals. It is important to assess how big of a rat or mouse your snake should eat..
From lilithfair 366 days ago
Not the Best Experience
In the moment, the prospect of owning my own kingsnake was too good to pass up (when it was on sale for 60% off). Now, I know why. First, feeding was a complete pain. After a few months of feeding, my snake would begin to strike at the mouse as I was placing it in the tank. I followed the directive of handling him at least one time per day in order to reduce the chance of him striking, but he did nonetheless. The idea of owning a snake proved to be much more attractive than ownership itself, and I would advise any prospective owners to think carefully before moving forward..
From joaks Apr 5 2015 10:10PM