Boasting an impressive area of 268,597 square miles, Texas is the is the second largest U.S. state. Texas has 15 major waterways, 80,000 miles of waterways, and the U.S. Forest Service manages 675,000 acres of land in the state. All of this makes for a lot of natural habitats for wildlife within Texas, wildlife like snakes. In this article we’re going to be talking specifically about kingsnakes in Texas. We’re going to look at the 6 species found in the state and learn a little bit about each one.
Let’s have a look!
6 kingsnakes in Texas
The 6 species of kingsnakes in Texas are the prairie kingsnake, desert kingsnake, speckled kingsnake, Louisiana milksnake, western milksnake, and the Mexican milksnake.
1. Prairie kingsnake
Scientific name: Lampropeltis calligaster
The prairie kingsnake, or yellow-bellied kingsnake, is found from Central Texas all the way to the North Carolina and Virginia coast. This snake usually reaches around 3 feet in length as an adult and can be found in grasslands and woodlands, often hiding under a log or a rock.
Prairie kingsnakes are green and brown on top with yellowish underbellies, they’re known for being secretive and elusive so they aren’t seen very often.
Kingsnakes like this one feed on a variety of small rodents, reptiles, and amphibians. However the primary food source for kingsnakes is commonly other snakes. Prairie kingsnakes are most active in April through November. Females of this species will lay between 5 and 17 eggs.
2. Desert kingsnake
Scientific name: Lampropeltis splendida
The desert king snake is found in areas of Texas, Southeastern Arizona, New Mexico, and possibly other nearby states in the west. Until recently, scientists considered the desert king snake to be a subspecies of Lampropeltis getula, like the California king snake or the eastern king snake. It seems though that now they think this is a separate species.
Desert king snakes are mostly black in color with yellow or white rings going dow the length of their body. Like other king snakes, they are able to adapt to a variety of different habitats including deserts, forests, or even wetlands.
3. Speckled kingsnake
Scientific name: Lampropeltis holbrooki
Speckled kingsnakes are a subspecies of Lampropeltis getula, aka the common kingsnake. This subspecies is found in Eastern Texas only. They’re easily recognized by their yellow and white speckled patterns. Speckled kingsnakes grow to about 4 feet in length as adults and often live near swamps, streams, rivers, and other wetlands. Like other kingsnakes they feed on reptiles, amphibians, small mammals, and many times other snakes.
4. Louisiana milksnake
Scientific name: Lampropeltis triangulum amaura
While not referred to as kingsnakes, milksnakes are in fact part of the kingsnake genus. Louisiana milksnakes are only found in a few states in the Southeast United states, this includes East Texas. I couldn’t find an official range map for Lampropeltis triangulum amaura, so I made a crude one below based on what Texas.gov reported about the species distribution.
Milksnakes are considered coral snake pretenders, meaning they mimic their flashy colors and use that as a defense mechanism against predators. There are a couple other milksnakes in Texas that use the same strategies of defense.
5. Western milk snake
Scientific name: Lampropeltis triangulum gentilis
The western milksnake, sometimes called the central plains milksnake, is found throughout much of Northern and Western Texas. Western milksnakes are fairly widespread in the western United States and can 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.
6. Mexican milk snake
Scientific name: Lampropeltis triangulum annulata
The Mexican milksnake is primarily found in areas of Northern Mexico, but can be found as far north as Southwestern Texas in the U.S. Their markings look similar to the Louisiana milksnake, which also lets them mimic the venomous coral snake when they need to warn off a predator.
Mexican milksnakes only reach about 2 feet in length as adults, making them the one of the smallest kingsnakes in Texas. Not only that, but also an excellent size for pet snake owners. They feed on just about any small animal they can find, and occasionally other snakes though not as much as other types of kingsnakes.