Species group: Kingsnakes and Milksnakes
Other common names: Speckled King Snake, Black Pepper Snake
Scientific name: Lampropeltis getula holbrooki
Like many of its relatives, the Speckled Kingsnake is an attractive, moderately-sized constrictor that is hardy enough for novices, yet still holds allure for keepers with much experience.
The Speckled Kingsnake ranges from southern Illinois and Iowa to eastern Texas and Alabama. It is now considered by many herpetologists to be a color variation of the Eastern Kingsnake rather than a distinct subspecies. Within this range, it inhabits open woodlands, overgrown fields, brushy swamps and farms.
Appearance / health:
Speckled Kingsnakes average 3 - 4 feet in length. They are quite attractive, with a black body marked by numerous white, yellow or light orange spots. Some individuals are lightly-spotted, while in others the markings are dense enough to form bands of color.
With proper care, this hardy snake may exceed 20 years of age.
Behavior / temperament:
Speckled 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.
Speckled Kingsnakes are undemanding in their housing requirements; adults do fine in 30-40 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: 85-90 F
The Speckled Kingsnake preys upon mice, chipmunks, small gophers, shrews (rejected 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, but these may need to be lizard-scented at first.
Written by Frank Indiviglio