There are a total of around 50 different species of snakes found in the United States. Oklahoma, 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 Oklahoma.
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 5 species of kingsnakes and milksnakes found in the state of Oklahoma. Since milk snakes fall under the kingsnake Genus, they’ll be included on this list.
5 types of kingsnakes in Oklahoma
The 5 types of kingsnakes found in Oklahoma are the prairie kingsnake, speckled kingsnake, eastern milk snake, western milk snake, and the red milksnake.
1. Prairie kingsnake
Scientific name: Lampropeltis calligaster calligaster
The prairie kingsnake, also known as the yellow-bellied kingsnake, is found throughout the state of Oklahoma, though not in the pandhandle. 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.
2. Speckled kingsnake
Scientific name: Lampropeltis holbrooki
The speckled kingsnake is a subspecies of the eastern kingsnake. They can be found throughout most of Oklahoma, though they aren’t as common in the panhandle. 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
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 only occurs in Northeastern Oklahoma. 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
Scientific name: Lampropeltis triangulum gentilis
The western milksnake, sometimes called the central plains milksnake, is found in Central and Southeast Oklahoma as well as in the panhandle. 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. Red milk snake
Scientific name: Lampropeltis triangulum syspila
The red milksnake is found in some areas of Eastern Oklahoma. They aren’t a widespread snake, but their range extends into through several neighboring 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.