5 Species of Kingsnakes in Virginia (Pictures)

There are at least 16 different types of kingsnakes found in the United States, and in this article we’re going to have a look at the kingsnakes in Virginia. Kingsnakes are any snakes belonging to the genus Lampropeltis in the family Colubridae. Milksnakes fall into this family of snakes, and the state of Virginia has a species that we’ll show you on this list. Kingsnakes are one of the most widespread and common groups of snake in North America. Because their general docile nature and manageable size, kingsnakes are commonly found in the pet snake trade.

All kingsnakes are non-venomous, and many of them are actually resistant to the venom of other poisonous snakes. Some species are on the small side, while others may get rather large. They can also range in color from solid black to having bright colors like a coral snake

With all that being said, let’s have a look at some of Virginia’s kingsnakes!

5​ species of kingsnakes in Virginia

T​he 5 species of kingsnake in Virginia are the northern mole kingsnake, scarlet kingsnake, eastern kingsnake, eastern black kingsnake, and the eastern milksnake.

1. E​astern kingsnake

eastern kingsnake in the road | source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region via Flickr

Scientific name: Lampropeltis getula

These are the largest kingsnakes in Virginia, often reaching 48 inches in length, with the longer specimens exceeding 7 feet. They’re a deep glossy black with a thin, white or yellow pattern. Eastern kingsnakes occur throughout most of Virginia, though not as common in western areas of the state.

The 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. In the Outer Banks, kingsnakes of this species are brown with light speckles in between their chainlike stripes. 

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. 

E​astern kingsnakes are active during the day, and you’ll often find them in agricultural and suburban areas. These places tend to have large rodent populations, which draw in venomous snakes like copperheads, and they, in turn, attract the kingsnakes. So, if you see a kingsnake, leave it be- it’s probably controlling the population of venomous snakes in the area.

2. M​ole Kingsnake

mole kingsnake | image by Dawson via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 2.5

Scientific name: Lampropeltis calligaster rhombomaculata

The mole kingsnake light reddish brown in color with darker elliptical spots down their back.As they age, the pattern fades and older snakes may appear to be a uniform brown color. They rarely get bigger than about 40 inches in length. They’re named for their habit of living primarily underground, like moles. 

M​ole 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. If you’re in a rural area, check the dead logs and look under a few rocks, and there’s a good chance you’ll find some of these secretive snakes.

In fact, they’re probably one of the most numerous snakes in Virginia, 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. Farmers and others in rural areas should especially appreciate their presence.

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3. Scarlet kingsnake

source: Land Between the Lakes KY/TN via Flickr

Scientific name: Lampropeltis elapsoides

T​he 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. 

These two species are so similar in appearance that the scarlet kingsnake is often used in movies to depict venomous snakes. Both “Snakes on a Plane” and “The Mummy” use a scarlet kingsnake in scenes where venomous snakes are supposed to be present.

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. Scarlet kingsnakes are uncommon at best in Virginia. 

4. E​astern milk snake

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

Scientific name: Lampropeltis triangulum 

T​he 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.

M​ilk 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. 

M​ilk snakes can be found in Northern and Western Virginia, and prefer to live in the more mountainous, wooded regions. They’re present on the coastal plains, but rarer there.

M​ilk 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.

Robert from ReptileJam

Hey, I'm Robert, and I have a true passion for reptiles that began when I was just 10 years old. My parents bought me my first pet snake as a birthday present, which sparked my interest in learning more about them. read more...