Saturday, November 21, 2009

California Kingsnake

The California kingsnake is a subspecies of the common kingsnake and is found in all but some small portions of California, the southern half of Nevada, a small portion of southern Utah, all of Arizona, except for eastern Arizona, a small piece of southern Oregon, and a ways into Mexico. Hatchlings are about 12 inches long and adults can get to about four feet long. The first time I saw California kingsnakes I saw three in short order. We were with a group of youth on the Havasupai Indian Reservation in northern Arizona staying at the Havasu Campground in early September 1992. The first snake we saw, below, was near Havasu Falls. It was a beautiful glossy black and white which was very distinctive in the green grass near the falls.
All three snakes we found looked very similar, with dark black and white stripes.
The next kingsnake we found was in the Havasu Campground, see below. Each one had a small white dot on the head.
This one had stripes that connected on the underside through the belly, but at least one did not have connecting stripes.
The third kingsnake we found was about a half mile up Havasu Creek from where it empties into the Colorado River. This was my first trip to Havasupai and I've been back about four times and never seen another kingsnake there.
They are widely variable in appearance, although the ones I've seen have been consistently of two types. The northern Arizona version which is very glossy black and white, and the Redlands
area version which has more choclately brown and yellow stripes. Our local snakes do seem to vary in terms of how dark their dark stripes are and they also are not as glossy as the Arizona versions. The kingsnake below was caught in Redlands.
The next kingsnake was captured up Whitewater Canyon and has distinctive yellow bands and three marks on the top of the head.
The next kingsnake was a pet for awhile, named "Tide" after the laundry detergent, because Judy found the snake one evening in the warm sheets she'd taken from the dryer. She initially thought it was a fake plastic snake of the boys and let out a shreik when she realized it was alive.
We've found a number of kingsnakes over the years, from inside our house, to our neighbors yards, to Overcrest Street on the way to Church. I've found them to be voracious eaters, about the complete opposite of the long-nosed snakes I have never been able to get to eat. Here a kingsnake eats an alligator lizard.
This kingsnake is eating a shovel-nosed snake. It got it all the way down and then threw it up.
This kingsnake is eating a glossy snake. The kingsnake is immune to rattlesnake venom and I've seen pictures of several different kingsnakes eating rattlesnakes.
There are California kingsnakes that have stripes and weirdly contorted markings that are very unusual. Here is a link to some pictures. The next picture is of a kingsnake in the canyon behind our home.
The ease with which they eat and their generally mellow nature (although I have seen several that were pretty nasty, attempting to bite) make them popular pets.

In May 2011 I was taking some trash out to our garbage can in the evening and found a good sized king snake
in our driveway, next to our garage door. It was shaking its tail in a fake rattle, like a rattlesnake, something I've seen gopher snakes do before, but not something I recall king snakes doing. 
I kept it for a couple of weeks, took it to our fathers and sons outing and let the little boys hold it, 
then let it go in our yard on a Saturday afternoon. When I let it go, it got in a defensive posture, 
and fake-rattled again, raising its head as if to strike, 
although it never did strike. 


  1. I have to admit, of all the snakes we've had, Tide was my favorite (if there IS such a thing as me having a favorite snake).

  2. i just saw a ca. king in my yard
    are they poisones?

  3. They are not poisonous. They usually are not very aggressive either, meaning you can usually pick them up without getting bitten.

  4. i just kill that snake today. my bad!!!!!!!

  5. how common are these snakes around granite falls n.c ?

  6. There are none in North Carolina. You have other variations of the king snake, but not the California king snake.

  7. They are in Michigan to.
    i was swimming at a lake.
    and there was this old tire thing there.
    so i tossed it outta the water.
    and i seen a tiny black snake with white striped.
    it bit me though ); but it didnt hurt. but my friend was flipping out lol
    im glad they arent poisonous


  9. Are they in GA (Atlanta area)? A black and white snake unlike any I have ever seen until I saw your pictures, just went in my overfull garage this June night. The snake has bands of black and white. It is almost dark, and my first thought was where did it come from? I have about 20 broken bags of soil that I got for a bargain two weeks ago. They are right by the garage door, and the bags would be a nice hiding place for the snake. I had the bags uncovered while planting flowers today, and perhaps the snake came from there, or could it have been in a bag? I've seen frogs on the driveway, and they may have attracted the snake. I closed the garage door, and now I'm afraid to go in the garage, and I'm afraid to open the door for fear that it might be in or under something, and that I'll never find it without fear. Could it be the harmless king snake, or could it be a dangerous one? It must be a dangerous one, for I almost died of fright. I keep 2 large bags of birdseed
    (already opened, but closed tightly) in the garage, but that is the only food there that might attract bugs. I've not seen any bugs. I've not had critters in the garage, and usually keep the door down unless I'm right near the garage.

  10. We have them here in Crockett, CA all the time, they're lovely surprises when they choose to appear! Question: Why is this subject under the heading "conundrum"?

  11. Just found one in Reno Nevada

  12. Just found one on our patio in Chandler Arizona. Been here 9 years and this is the first one we have seen. Does this mean there are more. It was about 12 inches long and skinny. I don't want anymore and now I'm afraid to go out in my yard.

  13. I'm glad to know such a beautiful marked snake isn't deadly.
    It startled me around my guesthouse door as I was about to enter and then thought better of it; came in and looked it up on the internet in the main house.
    Maybe the 2 1/2 footer will grow up to be much bigger and deter/or kill the rattlers here! We live outside the Surprise, AZ. city limits on over 10 acres and love it here. Snakes, scorpions and spiders, ants..were all here before we built. Out of them all, the creepiest is the brown recluse spiders - I'm just plain very afraid of spiders, period!

    1. Then you're lucky to have the snake. They're rarely aggressive and beautiful (if you like snakes).

  14. The King snake labeled as eating a shovel-nosed snake is actually eating an Alligator Lizard. The King snake labeled as eating a Glossy snake is actually eating the Shovel-nosed Snake.

    Just thought you might want to know.

    1. No, they are labeled correctly. The alligator lizard is first, followed by the shovel-nosed snake, followed by the glossy snake. The picture is below the identification.

  15. there is one in my backyard and I live in Ontario, Canada ..any idea on how it got here? someone had it as a pet and let it loose I assume? there is no dot on its head that normal ? or does that mean its not a California king snake?

  16. i have captured this king snake just today...and want to sale... anyone if needed.... me live in pakistan.. contact...+923009308839

  17. I live in south Carolina and had a black snake with brown stripes are they piosonius.

  18. i keep finding them in my yard and house can they hurt my small dogs if they chase it or anything?

  19. I was having a stroll today after the Diwali,the festival of Light, in my locality,North East of India. I saw a snake with alternating yellow and black stripes. I even clicked a picture of it. Are they Poisonous? How do I post the picture. Some People said that the price of this snake is worth Lacks in black Market. Is that so?

  20. My roommate found one in his bed with him a couple of weeks ago, and Judy now both roommates found one in an upper cabinet in the kitchen. This is the closest I have found, but we are in Arkansas, HELP!