Mole Kingsnake

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Is the Mole Kingsnake right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Brown Kingsnake

Scientific name: Lampropeltis calligaster rhombomaculata

The basics:
The Mole Kingsnake, a subspecies of the better-known Prairie Kingsnake, is not very common in captivity. This situation is changing as more snake enthusiasts become aware of its attractive appearance, manageable size, and extreme hardiness. The Mole Kingsnake is native to the southeastern United States, where it ranges from Virginia to Louisiana and Florida. Within this range, it inhabits open woodlands, overgrown fields, and farms, but is not often seen due to its subterranean lifestyle. The “mole” part of the common name refers to its habit of sheltering in self-dug burrows or those of small mammals (including, as one might guess, moles!). A relative, the South Florida Mole Kingsnake, is limited to that state.

Appearance / health:
Mole Kingsnakes average 2 ½-3 feet in length, with the record being 47 inches. They are quite attractive, with a gray, tan or reddish body marked by numerous irregularly-shaped, dark blotches.

Behavior / temperament:
Mole Kingsnakes calm down quickly and adapt well to handling. However, like most of their relatives, they have the un-nerving habit of suddenly “nosing “the hand or arm and delivering an “experimental” bite. This is rarely an aggressive action – perhaps they are just wired to seek additions to their already wide diets! These bites, easily avoided by alert handlers, detract little from this snake’s fine pet qualities.

Mole Kingsnakes are undemanding in their housing requirements; adults do fine in 20-30 gallon terrariums. Newspapers may be used as a substrate, but they prefer to burrow into cypress mulch, eucalyptus bark and similar materials. A length of partially-buried PVC pipe makes an ideal shelter, but traditional hide boxes will also be accepted. The substrate must be kept dry and the enclosure’s screen lid should be secured by cage clips. Ambient temperature: 75-78 F; Basking temperature: 85 F

Fecal material should be removed regularly and the terrarium thoroughly cleaned each 2-4 weeks. Wild-caught pets should be examined by a veterinarian. With proper care, Mole Kingsnakes can easily live into their 20’s.

Although many predators disdain moles, the Mole Kingsnake happily consumes its mammalian namesake. It also takes mice, chipmunks, small gophers, shrews (also avoided by most snakes), lizards and other snakes. Pets do well on a diet comprised solely of mice.

A 2-3 month winter cooling period of 55-60 F, with a basking spot of 72 F, will stimulate breeding. Pairs must be monitored carefully, as bites may occur during courtship, and all kingsnakes show a decided preference for their brethren as meals! A typical clutch contains 6-12 eggs, which should be incubated in vermiculite at 82 F for 50-65 days. Hatchlings generally accept pinkies as their first meal.

Written by Frank Indiviglio

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