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California Kingsnake (Lampropeltis californiae)

If there ever was a group of animals that could use a good PR campaign, it would be snakes. Often vilified and villainized in most media, and used as a symbol of evil in religious texts, it’s easy to say that snakes have a bad rap. Although many are highly venomous and a genuine cause for concern, some species are much more benign and even help with pest control! One of these friendly species is the California Kingsnake.

 

The California Kingsnake is medium sized (2.5 - 3.5 feet on average) and has a black or brown coloration with white to yellow bands. The bands can vary greatly in size and shape, giving this fantastic slitherer a nice touch of variety. Some California Kingsnakes lack any bands, and instead don a distinct dorsal stripe! They are also extremely long lived animals, living up to 30-40 years old. Woah!

The name “Kingsnake” isn’t given out to just anybody. The California Kingsnake earned this title through it’s unique diet which includes consuming other snakes! When preying on snakes, a little venom resistance can be more than helpful. The California Kingsnake is resistant to many venoms, including that of the Pacific Rattlesnake. Rattlesnakes are a hazard to humans, pets and livestock. Kingsnakes are serpent superheroes because they prey on the Rattlesnakes and keep their numbers low. But wait, they aren’t only good at killing other snakes, they also prey on rodents and can keep their numbers down as well! When it comes to pest control, the California Kingsnake is a massive ally.

 

The California Kingsnake isn’t picky when it comes to housing. They can be found in forests, woodlands, chaparral, grasslands, marshes and even deserts! You can find them in just about any area of California, and they even occur in large stretches of Oregon, Nevada, Arizona and Mexico. They’re usually diurnal, meaning they’re active during the day, but occasionally do their hunting at night during the summer to escape the intense California heat. The floor is often the most common place to find them, but they will occasionally slither up small trees or bird boxes in order to prey on eggs and hatchlings.