Arkansas, like most other states in America, is home to many different types of snakes. In this article though, we’ll be looking at the kingsnakes in Arkansas. All kingsnakes are non-venomous constrictors that feed primarily on other snakes, even venomous ones. They are snake-eaters, which is why they are called kingsnakes.
The state of Arkansas provides a diverse landscape. The Ozark and Ouachita mountains lie to the north and west, while the eastern land is flat, rich, and laced with rivers. This gives kingsnakes a variety of habitats in which to live and hunt.
In this article, we’ll learn about the 5 species of kingsnakes in Arkansas. Remember, milk snakes fall under the kingsnake Genus so they’ll be included on this list.
5 types of kingsnakes in Arkansas
The 5 types of kingsnakes found in Arkansas are the prairie kingsnake, the speckled kingsnake, eastern milk snake, western milk snake, and the Louisiana milk snake.
1. Prairie kingsnake
Scientific name: Lampropeltis calligaster calligaster
The prairie kingsnake is also known as the yellow-bellied kingsnake. They’re found in scattered locations all throughout the state. They can grow up to 4 and a half feet in total length. This elusive snake is usually tan to brownish gray, with brown or rusty blotches down the back. The belly is a cream or yellow color with brown blotches. The young are vibrantly spotted, which fades over time.
Their mating season is in early spring, after coming out of their winter dormancy. 6 to 18 eggs are laid, but won’t hatch until August or September. They typically hunt during the day, but during the peak of summer, they actually become more nocturnal. The prairie kingsnake eats mice and other small mammals, but they have also been known to eat lizards, smaller snakes, amphibians, small birds, and sometimes insects. They like to live in fields, prairies, woodlots, and rocky hillsides.
The prairie kingsnake is classified as being of Least Concern. Though they are routinely killed by people who mistake them for copperhead snakes, they are still common.
These snakes are not considered dangerous since they don’t have venom. They kill their prey by quickly suffocating it.
2. Speckled kingsnake
Scientific name: Lampropeltis holbrooki
The speckled kingsnake is a subspecies of the eastern kingsnake and can be found in north Arkansas. They are also called flecked snakes or salt and pepper snakes. They can grow up to 58 inches in length. Speckled kingsnakes are black with yellow spots, and their belly is checkered with bold yellow and black blocks.
Kingsnakes typically mate in the spring and lay 3-24 eggs which hatch in early August or September. Similar to other types of kingsnakes, this species eats other snakes, lizards, rodents, birds, and turtle eggs. They are also resistant to the venom of pit-vipers and commonly eat rattlesnakes, copperheads, and cottonmouths with no ill effects.
Speckled kingsnakes live in heavy woodlands to open prairie and lowlands. They prefer wet moist environments and like to hide under rocks, logs, and what could be considered junk.
When threatened, kingsnakes will shake their tail like a rattlesnake and expel foul-smelling musk and feces.
3. Eastern milksnake
Scientific name: Lampropeltis triangulum
The eastern milksnake of Arkansas is found mostly in the northern region of the state. They have smooth shiny scales with black-bordered brown-red markings on a tan or whitish-gray background. The newly-hatched look identical to the fully-grown adults, though are much brighter.
The milksnake breeds in early spring and lays 2 to 17 eggs that hatch in 28 to 39 days. They are hardly ever seen during the day and prefer to hide under logs during the heat of the day. They hunt at night and prey upon other, smaller snakes, snake eggs, rodents, birds, bird eggs, and lizards. Milk snakes are like other kingsnakes, in that they kill their prey by suffocating them and then swallowing them whole.
Milk snakes prefer to live in forests, either coniferous or deciduous, but can also be found in wet or dry prairies, grasslands, rocky hillsides, small streams, and marshes. Though they are elusive and rarely seen, they are not considered endangered and are quite abundant in their range. They are adept burrowers and like to hide in loose sandy soil.
There are actually 3 subspecies of milksnake found in Arkansas, the Louisiana milksnake, western milk snake milksnake, and the eastern milk snake. These snakes are all known as coral-pretenders, meaning that they greatly resemble highly venomous coral snakes.
Milksnakes get their name from an old folk tale that describes a snake sneaking into a barn and drinking the milk from nursing cows.
4. Western milk snake
Scientific name: Lampropeltis triangulum gentilis
The western milksnake, sometimes called the central plains milksnake, is found in areas of western and central Arkansas. Western milksnakes are fairly widespread in the western United States and can also be found in states like Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska.
Adults may reach up to 36 inches in length and feed on things like lizards, mice, and other snakes. They are most active from March to October and are often spotted in open fields, plains, prairies, and the foothill valleys of the mountains to the north.
5. Louisiana milksnake
Scientific name: Lampropeltis triangulum amaura
Louisiana milksnakes are uncommon and only found in a few state including Eastern Texas, Western Louisiana, Southeast Oklahoma, and Southwestern Arkansas. They grow to around 16-24 inches as adults and are similar to other milk snakes in most ways.
Below is a range map I made based on what Texas.gov reported about the subspecies distribution, to give you a better idea.