Arizona is located in the heart of the Southwest United States where it gets hot summers and mild winters. There are a wide variety of animal habitats like desert, forest, mountains, grasslands, tundra, as well as wetlands and riparian areas along the Colorado River basin. This state is also home to a variety of wildlife, like snakes for instance. In this article we’re going to be talking about a certain type of snake, the king snake. The different types of king snakes in Arizona to be more precise.
King snakes got their name from the fact that they eat other snakes. Not only that, but king snakes actually eat venomous snakes like rattlesnakes and copperheads. They’re immune to snake venom.
Just to recap these snakes are non-venomous, not a threat to humans, and they help keep the venomous snake population under control. In my opinion, these are good snakes to have around!
Let’s take a look at 5 types of king snakes found in the state of Arizona.
Types of king snakes in Arizona
The species of king snakes in Arizona are the California king snake, desert king snake, Arizona mountain king snake, Mexican black king snake, and the western milk snake.
1. California king snake
Scientific name: Lampropeltis getula californiae
California king snakes are most prevalent in the far western states like California, Nevada, and much of Arizona. However they can also be found in small areas of nearby states like Oregon to the north or Utah to the east. These beautiful snakes are just one of the 9 subspecies of the common king snake, Lampropeltis getula. California king snakes are common in the pet trade, I actually had one as a kid.
Like other king snakes, these guys feed on other snakes as their primary food source. California king snakes can reach up to 6 feet in length and live for up to 40 years! King snakes are comfortable living in a variety of habitats like from marshes, grasslands, deserts, forests, coastal areas, and possibly even your own backyard.
2. Mexican black king snake
Scientific name: Lampropeltis getula nigrita
Another subspecies of the common king snake is the Mexican black king snake. Their name can be confusing, because this species actually isn’t black. They are more of a very dark chocolate, you can tell the difference in the sunlight. Mexican black king snakes can grow to 3-4 feet in length and like other king snakes feed on other snakes, but also reptiles, amphibians, and small rodents they can find.
They live in the arid regions of Southeastern Arizona and Mexico. They avoid the heat of the desert by hunting at night. Studies suggest that this sub-species has been inter-breeding with some of the other resident king snakes in Arizona. This would make many of the existing snakes of this species no longer pure Mexican black king snakes.
3. Desert king snake
Scientific name: Lampropeltis splendida
The desert king snake is found in areas of Texas, Southeastern Arizona, New Mexico, and possibly other nearby states in the west. Until recently, scientists considered the desert king snake to be a subspecies of Lampropeltis getula, like the California king snake or the eastern king snake. It seems though that now they think this is a separate species.
Desert king snakes are mostly black in color with yellow or white rings going dow the length of their body. Like other king snakes, they are able to adapt to a variety of different habitats including deserts, forests, or even wetlands.
4. Arizona mountain king snake
Scientific name: Lampropeltis pyromelana
Also known as the Sonoran mountain king snake, you’ll notice that Arizona mountain king snakes have much different coloration than the previous 3 on this list. You could even say that these mountain king snakes in Arizona look very similar to the venomous western coral snake. If you look at the picture below though, you can see the differences.
These similarities to the coral snake let the Arizona mountain king snake warn off potential predators. It’s like having a big sign that says “I might be venomous, do you want to risk it?”. Mountain king snakes do live at higher elevations, typically 3,000 ft. or higher. This Arizona king snake is on the smaller side, and only grows to about 3 feet or so.
5. Milk snake
Scientific name: Lampropeltis gentilis
Milk snakes are actually in the king snake family so this species also makes the list of king snakes in Arizona. I think that the species of milk snake found in Arizona is the subspecies Lampropeltis triangulum celaenops, which is the New Mexico milk snake. Although I’m not 100% sure, there’s not a lot of information about milk snakes in Arizona.
A milk snakes coloring is also said to be intended to mimic that of the coral snake, giving them an added defense mechanism. Like other snakes in the king snake family, milk snakes are opportunistic eaters and will feed on small reptiles, amphibians, rodents, and even other snakes.