Kingsnakes are one of the most widespread and common groups of snake in North America. All kingsnakes are non-venomous, and many of them are actually resistant to the venom of other poisonous snakes. Georgia is home to several species kingsnake, including one species of milksnake, which is part of the same genus. In this article we’re going to be learning about the kingsnakes in Georgia.
Kingsnakes live in a wide variety of habitats, and many of them prefer to feed on other snakes, including venomous ones. This actually makes kingsnakes good to have around. Georgia has a pretty warm climate and many welcoming habitats for kingsnakes.
If you live in Georgia, odds are good that there are kingsnakes living not too far from you. so it’s a good idea to learn as much as you can about them. Let’s have a look at Georgia’s 5 types of kingsnakes!
5 Different Species of Kingsnakes in Georgia
The 5 species of kingsnake in Georgia are the yellow-bellied kingsnake, the mole kingsnake, scarlet kingsnake, eastern kingsnake, and the eastern milk snake.
1. Prairie kingsnake
Scientific name: Lampropeltis calligaster
Also called the yellow-bellied kingsnake, the prairie kingsnake can be found in northern Georgia, where it prefers open grassland near permanent water sources. It grows to a bit over three feet in length and looks much like the rat snakes with which it shares it’s habitat.
They prefer to stay out of sight as much as possible, so to find one you’ll have to start flipping over rocks and old logs. Just be careful- they’re not the only snake that likes to hide in those places!
This species is unique among kingsnakes, in that it eats primarily rodents and lizards, instead of snakes. If they feel threatened, they will rattle their tail. In the dry leaf litter and grass of their typical habitat, this can sound just like a real rattlesnake.
If you try to handle one in the wild, it’s probably going to bite you- often several times. Since they’re non-venomous, there’s no danger. But they do have a mouth full of very sharp teeth, so those bites can hurt.
2. Mole Kingsnake
Scientific name: Lampropeltis calligaster rhombomaculata
Closely related to the yellow-bellied kingsnake, the mole kingsnake is named for it’s habit of spending much of it’s time underground. They’re usually light reddish brown in color with darker elliptical spots down their back. They rarely get bigger than about 40 inches in length.
Mole kingsnakes are rarely seen, but they’re very common. Since they tend to live underground, they often live in suburban and agricultural habitats that other snakes wouldn’t survive in. You may even have a few in your backyard without ever realizing it.
In fact, they’re probably one of the most abundant snakes in Georgia, even though they’re one of the most rarely seen. Since rodents are their main source of food, it’s actually a good thing to have them around. They can make a huge difference in the size of the rodent population.
3. Scarlet kingsnake
Scientific name: Lampropeltis elapsoides
The most recognizable and famous species of kingsnake, the scarlet kingsnake it’s instantly recognizable for it’s striking color pattern, which is very similar to the colors of the highly venomous coral snake.
If you’ve heard the rhyme “red touch yellow, kill a fellow, red touch black, friend of Jack,” or any of the similar ones, those are a reference to the scarlet kingsnake and the coral snake.
In Georgia, you can also simply say “red face, your safe,” since the scarlet kingsnake always has a red face, while the coral snake always has a black face. The rhyme is necessary because, while true coral snakes are actually quite timid and avoid biting except as a last resort, scarlet kingsnakes, taking advantage of their similarity to the coral snake, will bite aggressively if handled. Fortunately, their bite is harmless.
Scarlet kingsnakes like to hide out underneath the leaf litter and old logs, where they ambush lizards and small snakes. You won’t likely spot one out crawling along the forest floor, and they even live underground much of the time, like the mole kingsnake.
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4. Eastern milk snake
Scientific name: Lampropeltis triangulum
The eastern milk snake is closely related to the scarlet kingsnake, but they’re very easy to tell apart. The milk snake is much bigger, with grey or cream colored scales and black and reddish brown splotches on it’s back. It’s named for the distinctive cream-colored triangular or y-shaped marking at the bas of it’s head.
Milk snakes can often be found in large barns, and folklore claims that their name is not because of their markings, but because they sneak into barns at night and milk the cows. This, of course, isn’t true. Instead, the reason they’re so common in barns is that barns usually have a lots of rodents, which are a milk snakes favorite prey.
Milk snakes can give you quite a scare when you see them because their colors are so vivid, and they often turn up so close to our homes. They’re perfectly harmless, though. And, since rodents are their favorite food, you might find that it’s a good thing to have a bunch of milk snakes living close by.
5. Eastern kingsnake
Scientific name: Lampropeltis getula
These are Georgia’s largest kingsnakes, often reaching 48 inches in length. They’re deep, glossy black in color with thin, white or yellow stripes. They live throughout the state, and snakes that live closer to the coastal plains tend to have wider yellow bands, while those deeper inland closer to the mountains may be almost entirely black.
Like most kingsnakes, they have a strong resistance to the venom of rattlesnakes, copperheads, and cottonmouths, which are some of their favorite things to eat. In fact, the “king” in their name is a reference to their habit of feeding on other snakes (the same is true for king cobras). Although they aren’t venomous, wild snakes do tend to bite when captured. It’s harmless, but painful.