IUCN threat status:

Least Concern (LC)


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Lampropeltis getula

Lampropeltis getula, commonly known as the eastern kingsnake,[2] common kingsnake,[3] or chain kingsnake[4] (more), is a harmless colubrid species endemic to the United States and Mexico. It has long been a favorite among collectors.[4] Eight subspecies are currently recognized, including the nominate subspecies described here.[5]


L. g. getula can be quite docile even when caught wild.

Adult specimens can range from 51 to 197 cm (20 to 78 in) in length.[6][7] Speckled Kingsnakes are the smallest race on average, at 91.5 cm (36.0 in) (in snout-to-vent length) on average, while the nominate is the largest, at 107 cm (42 in) on average.[7] Specimens up to 208.2 cm (82 inches) have been recorded.[8] Weight can vary from 285 g (10.1 oz) in a small specimen of 87.2 cm (34.3 in) in length, to 2,268 g (5.000 lb) in large specimens, of over 153 cm (60 in) in length.[9][7]

The color pattern consists of a glossy black, blue-black or dark brown ground color overlaid with a series of 23-52 white chain-like rings.[4][10] King snakes from the Coastal Plain have wider bands, while those found in mountainous areas have thinner bands or may be completely black.

Common names[edit]

Eastern Kingsnake,[2] Common Kingsnake,[3] Chain Kingsnake,[4] Kingsnake, Carolina Kingsnake, Chain Snake, Bastard Horn Snake, Black Kingsnake, Black Moccasin, Common Chain Snake, Cow Sucker, Eastern Kingsnake, Horse Racer, Master Snake, North American Kingsnake, Oakleaf Rattler, Pied Snake, Pine Snake, Racer, Rattlesnake Pilot, Thunder-and-Lightning Snake, Thunderbolt, Thunder Snake, Wamper, Wampum Snake.[10] Also In North Carolina it is called the Pied Piper.

Geographic range[edit]

Found in the United States in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, portions of Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, south and southwest Illinois, southern Indiana, southern Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, southern and western Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, southern Ohio, southeastern Oklahoma, southern Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, southern Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia. Also found in northern Mexico, including all of Baja California.[1]


Open areas are preferred, particularly grassland, but also chaparral, oak woodland, abandoned farms, desert, low mountains, sand, and any type of riparian zone, including swamps, canals and streams.


They eat other snakes, including venomous snakes. They have developed a hunting technique to avoid being bitten by clamping down on the jaws of the venomous prey, but even if bitten, they are immune to the venom. They also eat amphibians, turtle eggs, lizards, and small mammals, which they kill by constriction.[11]


Oviparous, females lay up to several dozen eggs that hatch after 2-2.5 months of incubation. Hatchlings are brightly colored and feed on small snakes, lizards and rodents.[4]


Long a favorite among collectors, they do well in captivity, living for up to 25 years or more. Some of the most popular kingsnakes kept in captivity are California, Brook's, Florida and Mexican black kingsnakes.[4]


Subspecies[5]Authority[5]Common name[5]Geographic range
L. g. californiae(Blainville, 1835)California kingsnake
L. g. floridanaBlanchard, 1919Florida kingsnake
L. g. getula(Linnaeus, 1766)Eastern kingsnake
L. g. holbrookiStejneger, 1902Speckled kingsnake
L. g. nigra(Yarrow, 1882)Black kingsnake
L. g. nigritaZweifel & Norris, 1955Mexican black kingsnake
L. g. splendida(Baird & Girard, 1853)Desert kingsnake
L. g. meansiKrysko & Judd, 2006Apalachicola Lowlands KingsnakeApalachicola Lowlands, Florida

See also[edit]


Hubbs, Brian. 2009. Common Kingsnakes. Tricolor Books, Tempe, Arizona.

  1. ^ a b Lampropeltis getula at the Reptarium.cz Reptile Database. Accessed 29 June 2008.
  2. ^ a b Conant R. 1975. A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America, Second Edition. (First published in 1958). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. 429 pp + 48 plates. ISBN 0-395-19979-4 (hardcover), ISBN 0-395-19977-8 (paperback).
  3. ^ a b Behler JL, King FW. 1979. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 743 pp. LCCCN 79-2217. ISBN 0-394-50824-6.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Mehrtens JM. 1987. Living Snakes of the World in Color. New York: Sterling Publishers. 480 pp. ISBN 0-8069-6460-X.
  5. ^ a b c d "Lampropeltis getula". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 29 June 2008. 
  6. ^ Burnie D, Wilson DE. 2001. Animal. Dorling Kindersley Publishing. 624 pp. ISBN 0-7894-7764-5.
  7. ^ a b c [1]
  8. ^ [2]
  9. ^ [3]
  10. ^ a b Wright AH, Wright AA. 1957. Handbook of Snakes of the United States and Canada. 2 volumes. Ithaca and London: Comstock Publishing Associates. (7th printing, 1985). 1,105 pp. ISBN 0-8014-0463-0.
  11. ^ Schmidt, K.P. and D.D. Davis. 1941. Field Book of Snakes of the United States and Canada. G.P. Putnam's Sons. New York. p. 176.


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