Many types of snakes call this state home, but there are only a few species of kingsnakes in Mississippi. These snakes are seldom seen and are rather elusive, but all of them prey upon other snakes, hence the name. With the great Mississippi river and all of its many tributaries, the state is full of moist hiding places for kingsnakes. They all like to hide under rocks, logs, and other wet debris.
In this article, we’ll look at 5 species of kingsnake in Mississippi.
5 species of kingsnakes in Mississippi
5 types of kingsnakes found in Mississippi are the prairie kingsnake, speckled kingsnake, scarlet kingsnake, black kingsnake, and the milk snake.
1. Prairie kingsnake
Scientific name: Lampropeltis calligaster calligaster
The yellow-bellied kingsnake is also known as the prairie 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. Prairie kingsnakes typically hunt during the day, but during the peak of summer, they actually become more nocturnal.
The yellow-bellied 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 yellow-bellied kingsnake is not endangered and is not a threatened species. 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 extreme western areas of Mississippi. They can grow up to 58 inches in length and are mostly black with light spots. Their belly is checkered with bold yellow and black blocks.
These unique-looking snakes mate in the spring and lay 3-24 eggs which hatch in early August or September. Much like other species of kingsnakes, the speckled kingsnake eats other snakes, lizards, rodents, birds, and turtle eggs.
Speckled kingsnakes live in heavy woodlands to open prairie and lowlands. Kingsnakes like to hide under rocks, logs, and what could be considered junk. They prefer wet moist environments.
When threatened, kingsnakes will shake their tail like a rattlesnake and expel foul-smelling musk and feces.
3. Scarlet kingsnake
Scientific name: Lampropeltis elapsoides
The scarlet kingsnake is also known as the scarlet milksnake and the scarlet snake. It can be found in the forests and shores all throughout Mississippi. It grows 14 to 20 inches long. Its bright red, yellow, and black markings make it one of the most beautiful snakes in Mississippi. Juveniles look the same as adults.
Scarlet kingsnakes are frequently mistaken for the extremely venomous coral reef snake or the non-venomous scarlet snake. It can be distinguished from the coral snake by the famous rhyme, “Red on yellow, kill a fellow. Red on black, friend to Jack.”
They breed from March to June and will lay 2 to 9 eggs and babies emerge after two months after being laid. Scarlet kingsnakes hunt mostly during the night and eat small lizards, rodents, and other snakes. The scarlet kingsnake likes to live in pinelands and hardwood hammocks. Not only can they burrow, but they can climb very well.
Like the other kingsnakes, the scarlet kingsnake is not venomous. Though they are rarely seen because of their elusive nature, they are deemed Low Conservation Concern.
4. Black kingsnake
Scientific name: Lampropeltis getula nigra
The black kingsnake can grow up to 58 inches in length and is a subspecies of the eastern kingsnake and can be found in northern Mississippi. While the eastern kingsnake has white or yellow markings criss crossing over their shiny black scales, the black kingsnake is completely black except for its white throat.
They mate in the spring and lay 3-24 eggs which hatch in early August or September. The black kingsnake eats other snakes, lizards, rodents, birds, and turtle eggs. Kingsnakes are resistant to the venom of pit-vipers and commonly eat rattlesnakes, copperheads, and cottonmouths with no ill effects.
5. Milk snake
Scientific name: Lampropeltis triangulum
The milk snake is also called the adder, the checkered adder, the common milk snake, and the chicken snake. It grows 24 to 36 inches in total length. It has a wider geographical range than most other snakes. The eastern milk snake of Mississippi dwells mostly in the northwestern region of the state.
They have smooth shiny scales with black-bordered brown markings on a tan or gray background. The newly-hatched look identical to the fully-grown adults, though are much brighter.
The milk snake breeds in early spring and lays 2 to 17 eggs that hatch in 28 to 39 days. These snakes 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.
These snakes like 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.
Milk snakes get their name from an old folk tale that describes a snake sneaking into a barn and drinking the milk from nursing cows.