6 Species of Kingsnakes in Missouri (Pictures)

There are a total of around 50 different species of snakes found in the United States. Missouri, like most other states in America, is home to many of these types of snakes. In this article though, we’ll be looking at the types of kingsnakes in Missouri.

All kingsnakes are non-venomous constrictors that feed primarily on other snakes, even venomous ones. Kingsnakes are considered to be snake-eaters, which is how they got their name. Different species grow to different sizes and have very different markings. Some are solid black like the Mexican black kingsnake, while some are very colorful like the scarlet kingsnake.

In this article, we’ll learn about the 6 species of kingsnakes and milksnakes found in the state of Missouri. Since milk snakes fall under the kingsnake Genus, they’ll be included on this list.

6 types of kingsnakes in Missouri

The 6 types of kingsnakes found in Missouri are the prairie kingsnake, speckled kingsnake, eastern milk snake, western milk snake, red milksnake, and the eastern black kingsnake which is newly discovered in the state. 

1. Prairie kingsnake

Prairie king snake image by Peter Paplanus via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Lampropeltis calligaster calligaster

The prairie kingsnake, also known as the yellow-bellied kingsnake, are found throughout the state of Missouri. 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’re often found in fields, prairies, woodlots, and rocky hillsides.

Kingsnakes are not considered dangerous, but are routinely killed by people who mistake them for copperheads or other venomous snakes.


2. Speckled kingsnake

Speckled king snake image by Peter Paplanus via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Lampropeltis holbrooki

The speckled kingsnake is a subspecies of the eastern kingsnake. They can be found throughout most of Missouri, though they aren’t as common in the northern third of the state. Speckled kingsnakes 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

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

Scientific name: Lampropeltis triangulum

Milksnakes get their name from an old folk tale that describes a snake sneaking into a barn and drinking the milk from nursing cows. The eastern milksnake is fairly widespread in Missouri. 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.

Milksnakes are sometimes referred to as coral-pretenders, meaning that they greatly resemble highly venomous coral snakes.


4. Western milk snake

western milk snake | image by Brian Carlson via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific name: Lampropeltis triangulum gentilis

The western milksnake, sometimes called the central plains milksnake, is only found in a small area of extreme western Missouri. Central plains milksnakes are fairly common in several midwestern states like Texas, 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. Eastern black kingsnake

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

Scientific name: Lampropeltis getula nigra

The black kingsnake is a subspecies of the eastern kingsnake and can be found in far eastern Missouri. They can grow up to 58 inches in length. While the eastern kingsnake has white or yellow markings criss crossing over their shiny black scales, the black kingsnake is completely black except for their white throat.

Black kingsnakes mate in the spring and lay 3-24 eggs which hatch in early August or September. They eat other snakes, lizards, rodents, birds, and turtle eggs. Like other kingsnakes, they are resistant to the venom of pit-vipers. This allows them to kill and eat rattlesnakes, copperheads, and cottonmouths with no ill effects.

The black kingsnake has a rare morph called the black speckled kingsnake. Its black and white scales give it a unique salt-and-pepper look.


6. Red milk snake

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

Scientific name: Lampropeltis triangulum syspila

The red milksnake is found statewide in Missouri, their range extends west through several other states. Red milksnakes can reach about 3 feet in length as adults. They can be identified by their dominant red bands that are outlined with black borders, separated by tan or pale bands.

Like other members of the genus Lampropeltis, red milksnakes are constrictors. They feed on other snakes, small mammals, amphibians, and lizards. Milksnakes are comfortable in a variety of habitats including forest edges, open woodlands, prairies, grasslands, near streams or rivers, and rocky hillsides.

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