14 Interesting Facts About Kingsnakes (Pictures)

Snakes are some of the most common animals in the world, and people tend to have mixed feelings about them. While some people love snakes and even keep them as pets, others would prefer to stay far away. The various species of kingsnakes are found throughout North America and other regions. In this article we’ll learn 14 interesting facts about kingsnakes.

One fact is that kingsnakes are among the most beloved snakes to have for pets, but there is more to them than their tame nature.

Let’s find out more!

14 facts about Kingsnakes

1. They regularly feed on other snakes

While kingsnakes are considered harmless when it comes to humans, they do pose a real threat to their own kind. They will regularly eat other snakes, even other kingsnakes, whether venomous or not. This species is immune to most venom found in other snakes, allowing them to feed on their own kind without consequence.

This makes them an ally to people in areas where poisonous snakes are common, but it won’t make them many friends in the animal kingdom.


2. They can live for decades

There isn’t much information on how long kingsnakes can live in the wild. However, they are popular household pets so there is a lot known about their lifespan when in captivity. These snakes can live anywhere between twenty and thirty years in captivity, and most will reach that age.

If you decide to get one of these creatures as a pet, keep in mind it is a commitment as these snakes can live 15-20 years or longer. Some kingsnake species typically live longer than others.


3. They aren’t venomous

One good thing about kingsnakes is that none of the species or subspecies is venomous. These snakes are constrictors and will wrap around their prey to kill them. They pose virtually no threat to humans, but the same can’t be said for their own king.

California kingsnake

Kingsnakes may not be poisonous, but they do regularly eat other poisonous snakes. This even includes rattlesnakes and pit vipers. Since they are immune to the venom of other snakes, many people see them as good neighbors to have.


4. They are a popular pet choice

Most species of kingsnakes are docile, even when compared to other common types of pet snakes. This makes them a good choice for anyone looking to own a snake, whether they have years of experience or are a beginner. The longest they grow is a little over 60 inches, and their max weight is around five pounds.

In an instance where they do get agitated and bite a handler, it isn’t much more than uncomfortable. A tamed kingsnake can make a great pet for any snake lover.

kingsnake being held

5. They mimic other snakes

Kingsnakes are known for mimicking other snakes for a number of reasons. Scarlet kingsnakes have color patterns that mimic the poisonous coral snake. This deters many predators, such as hawks or other large birds.

They will camouflage in fallen leaves if they sense danger, and will even shake their bodies to try and imitate the sound of rattlesnakes. The similarities between a coral snake and scarlet kingsnake are nearly unrecognizable, leading to a fairly famous rhyme people learn to spot their differences.

The rhyme goes, “Red touching black, safe for Jack. Red touching yellow, kill a fellow.”


6. There are 10 species and 45 subspecies

Kingsnakes are one of the most common types of snakes in the world, and they have 10 species and 45 subspecies. Despite the variety in types of kingsnakes, none of them are dangerous to humans, but they are all known to eat other snakes. Some of the commonly known types of kingsnakes are milk snakes, speckled kingsnakes, scarlet kingsnakes, California kingsnakes, and short-tailed snakes.

They can be found in many regions in North America, but they prefer warm southern areas, especially Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida.


7. They’re known for vibrant coloring

Many kingsnake species are known for their vibrant coloring. Scarlet kingsnakes have the yellow, black, and red patterning of coral snakes. Eastern kingsnakes have shiny black scales and white or yellow bands.

source: Land Between the Lakes KY/TN via Flickr

Other subspecies are known for speckled patterning. Coloring can vary dramatically depending on the type of kingsnake.


8. Little is known about their communication habits

According to scientists, there is not much known about the way kingsnakes communicate with each other. They will flick their tongues as one form of communication that helps them detect chemicals. They have scent glands as well which are used for both mating and warding off other snakes.

Kingsnakes have great visions like most other snake species, but they rely on vibrations instead of hearing.


9. Some Kingsnake species hibernate

While most kingsnakes prefer warm climates, they can also be found in areas with harsh winters. For this reason, many species will hibernate during the colder months. Those that don’t fully hibernate may do something called “pseudo-hibernation” where they will be dormant for just a short time.


10. Most species are nocturnal

Most kingsnake species are nocturnal, but in regions with moderate climates they may prefer to be active during the day. Even diurnal kingsnakes will start to become nocturnal during the summer months. Other species are crepuscular, being the most active at Dawn or dusk.

Eastern black kingsnake image by Peter Paplanus via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

This activity typically changes throughout the year depending on the season and climate.


11. They are not endangered

Kingsnakes are one of the most common snakes in the world, and none of the species or subspecies are currently endangered. However, the common kingsnake and Florida kingsnake have begun to decline and are considered species of concern. The biggest threat that these creatures face are habit loss and the pet trade.


12. Their name comes from what they eat

Since kingsnakes are known to feed on their own kind, that is exactly what they are named for. Their tendency to eat any other snake species, even venomous ones, has earned them the name “king.” In addition to snakes, they will eat other reptiles, birds, frogs, and small mammals.

eastern kingsnake in the road | source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region via Flickr

13. They are lone animals

Given the tendency for these snakes to eat their own, kingsnakes are lone animals. Even after laying eggs, the females will not stick around to care for their hatchlings. Because of this kingsnakes are able to fend for themselves from the day they hatch.


14. The name for milkshakes has an interesting origin

Eastern milksnake image by Peter Paplanus via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

The name for kingsnakes has an interesting enough origin but one species of these animals, the milk snake has a strange meaning behind its name. Milk snakes are often found hanging out in or around barns, which led to the belief that they must drink milk from cows at night. While this led to their name, these snakes actually prefer to be in barns because of the high population of mice and rats.

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