Kingsnakes are nonvenomous snakes indigenous to the United States and Mexico. Some of them are very similar to coral snakes (which are some of the most venomous snakes in North America), often causing confusion and fear.
In this article, we’ll be listing down 18 types of kingsnakes.
- California Mountain Kingsnakes
- San Diego Mountain Kingsnakes
- Webb’s Kingsnakes
- Florida Kingsnakes
- Mexican Black Kingsnakes
- Speckled Kingsnakes
- Milk Snakes
- Scarlet Kingsnakes
- California Kingsnakes
- Gray-banded Kingsnakes
- Apalachicola Kingsnakes
- Short-tailed Snakes
- Eastern Kingsnakes
- Mexican Milk Snakes
- Prairie Kingsnakes
- Black Kingsnakes
- Arizona Mountain Kingsnakes
- Desert Kingsnakes
Note: Snakes are ranked in no particular order.
Table of Contents
1. California Mountain Kingsnakes
Scientific name: Lampropeltis zonata
Just like many other kingsnakes, this species mimics the venomous coral snakes with its red-black-white bands. However, these snakes aren’t venomous and they’re harmless to humans.
As the name suggests, they’re mostly found in California, but they’ve also been spotted in parts of Oregon and Washington.
There are seven recognized subspecies, but they’re very difficult to tell apart because they all look alike.
However, they’re all non-venomous and harmless. These types of kingsnakes in California mostly feed on small lizards and small snakes (they’re actually capable of killing prairie rattlesnakes).
2. San Diego Mountain Kingsnakes
Scientific name: Lampropeltis zonata pulchra
This species of kingsnake is actually a subspecies of the aforementioned California mountain kingsnake, usually found in mountain ranges of Santa Monica, Santa Ana, Santa Rosa, and all mountains in San Diego county.
They can be recognized by their red-black-yellow bands, with some discoloration rarely apparent.
Although these types of kingsnakes in San Diego aren’t rare, they are considered to be of special concern because it’s highly prized by collectors and they’re being actively hunted and taken out of the wild.
3. Webb’s Kingsnakes
Scientific name: Lampropeltis webbi
A kingsnake species endemic to Mexico, Webb’s kingsnake was named in honor of Robert G. Webb, a famed herpetologist. Very little is known about the species since they’re very rarely seen.
It is believed that they’re found in forests of the Sierra Madre Occidental in Mexico.
They can grow up to 30 inches in length, while they’re usually grey with red half-bands (the bands don’t make a circle around the entire body).
4. Florida Kingsnakes
Scientific name: Lampropeltis getula floridana
As the name suggests, this kingsnake is native to Florida, but they’ve since spread to other areas of the American Southeast.
They’re characteristically dark, almost black, with thin, bright yellow bands. Although it’s rare, some individuals can grow up to 6 feet in length.
In the wild, they usually live in aspen forests, as pine is dangerous for reptiles. They like to burrow beneath the leaves and come out only to heat up and feed.
These types of kingsnakes in Florida feed on small animals (lizards and mice).
5. Mexican Black Kingsnakes
Scientific name: Lampropeltis getula nigrita
Capable of reaching 4 feet in length, these snakes are entirely black.
They’re found exclusively in the Sonora Desert in Mexico, while there are small pockets of population in Arizona. However, it’s likely that the Arizona population is a result of this species breeding with the California kingsnake.
They usually feed on rattlesnakes and they’ve developed an immunity to their venom. Lizards, mice, and birds are also on the menu. Because of their timid nature, they’re very popular as pets.
6. Speckled Kingsnakes
Scientific name: Lampropeltis holbrooki
Often called the ‘salt and pepper snake’, this snake has a pattern different from other kingsnakes. It’s mostly black with white specks along its entire length.
They can grow up to 48 inches in length, with the longest ever reaching 72 inches.
They’re found all over swamps and rivers of Central and Southern USA, and they’re noticeably more aquatic than other kingsnakes.
These types of kingsnakes found in Arkansas, Kansas, Texas, Iowa, and other states feed on small animals.
7. Milk Snakes
Scientific name: Lampropeltis triangulum
Milk snakes are a very large group of kingsnakes with 24 recognized subspecies. Out of all kingsnakes, milk snakes are the most similar to coral snakes, although they too are completely harmless to humans.
They’re very common in the eastern portion of the United States, but can also be found in parts of southeastern Canada.
No matter the subspecies, they have some variation of red-black-yellow bands in that order.
The easiest way to tell them apart from the venomous coral snakes is to remember that if the red bands touch black bands – the snake is harmless.
Coral snakes have a red-yellow-black set of bands.
Note: This rule only applies to coral snakes and kingsnakes in North America! Coral snakes and kingsnakes in Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Honduras, and other southern countries have different color patterns. There are also individual specimens of these snakes with abnormal patterns, which is why it’s best to just leave them alone.
8. Scarlet Kingsnakes
Scientific name: Lampropeltis elapsoides
Although they have a pattern similar to milk snakes, scarlet kingsnakes are not a subspecies of milk snakes. They usually grow up to 20 inches and they’re completely harmless.
Since they’re nocturnal, these snakes are very rarely seen by people. They can be found on trees as they’re great climbers, capable of climbing trees vertically.
9. California Kingsnakes
Scientific name: Lampropeltis californiae
As the name suggests, these snakes are most common in California, but they’ve spread all along the American West Coast and are also found in Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and parts of Northwest Mexico.
There are many color variations within this species, so there is no single color description of them. They can mimic the rattle of a rattlesnake when threatened, but they’re actually nonvenomous and completely harmless.
10. Gray-banded Kingsnakes
Scientific name: Lampropeltis alterna
These snakes have a grey base color with orange or red bands and they can grow up to 4 feet in length. They’re mostly found in Texas, New Mexico, and parts of northern Mexico.
Although they’re common, these types of kingsnakes in Texas are very rarely seen because of their nocturnal and secretive nature.
Additionally, they don’t occur near human-populated areas, so coming across them in the wild is very rare.
11. Apalachicola Kingsnakes
Scientific name: Lampropeltis getula meansi
This species is endemic to a very small pocket called the Apalachicola Lowlands in Florida.
There, they can grow up to 56 inches and there are so many different color and banding patterns that no single description is valid. There are also patternless snakes.
They’re known for feeding on venomous snakes (such as rattlesnakes), but also on lizards, amphibians, and rodents. If cornered, they’ll vibrate their tail and start buzzing – while they aren’t venomous, they’ll still bite if handled.
12. Short-tailed Snakes
Scientific name: Lampropeltis extenuata
Short-tailed snakes are small and secretive, so they’re very rarely seen. They rarely grow past 20 inches in length and are very thin. They only occur in Central Florida, where they live in woodlands.
Because of their secretive nature, very little is known about these animals. They’re burrowing snakes, easily excitable – making them difficult to catch as they’ll bite without hesitation.
Their diet is also a mystery – in captivity, they mostly feed on black-crowned snakes, often refusing other prey. It’s possible that they exclusively feed on this species in the wild too, but that is yet to be proven.
They’re listed as a threatened species in Florida and catching them, be it for
13. Eastern Kingsnakes
Scientific name: Lampropeltis getula
A characteristically dark snake, the eastern kingsnake is mostly black with white bands. They can grow up to 82 inches in extreme cases but are usually smaller.
They usually are in the southern half of the United States, but also in the northeastern states, as well as parts of Mexico.
They mostly feed on other snakes – including venomous rattlesnakes, copperheads, and coral snakes. They’re immune to most snake venoms, but they’ll also feed on small mammals and lizards.
Because of their extremely docile nature, they’re a very popular pet species, as they can be tamed even when caught in the wild.
14. Mexican Milk Snakes
Scientific name: Lampropeltis annulata
These nocturnal snakes are very similar to scarlet kingsnakes and milk snakes. They only occur in northeastern Mexico, although some specimens were spotted as far north as Texas.
They’re easily recognized because of their red-black-yellow pattern and they’re often confused with coral snakes because of this.
However, these types of kingsnakes in Mexico are nonvenomous, very docile in captivity, and they mostly feed on rodents and other snakes.
15. Prairie Kingsnakes
Scientific name: Lampropeltis calligaster
Also known as ‘the yellow-bellied kingsnake’, these animals are light brown in color with darker blots on their bodies. Their bellies are much lighter in color than the back, hence the other name.
Prairie kingsnakes are widespread in the American Southeast and Midwest. There, they’re usually secretive and are rarely seen – they usually inhabit abandoned manmade buildings, but also logs and tree trunks.
They are not venomous and they mostly feed on lizards, frogs, and rodents. Although they prefer being left alone, these snakes aren’t prone to biting when handled.
16. Black Kingsnakes
Scientific name: Lampropeltis nigra
The body of this snake is almost entirely black, although some specimens have yellow speckles. They’re usually smaller than 50 inches, but some specimens have been measured at more than 70 inches (although this is very rare).
They are very often seen in the wild, particularly in ranges from Illinois to Ohio, and further south towards the Gulf Coast.
They usually inhabit abandoned structures, as well as piles of debris. It appears that they like staying near moving bodies of water.
17. Arizona Mountain Kingsnakes
Scientific name: Lampropeltis pyromelana
Native to Arizona, this species of kingsnake can be found in forests, usually near bodies of water. There, they usually feed on small animals, often coming out during the day to feed and bask in the sun.
Arizona Mountain kingsnakes usually feed on small animals, but they’ll eat venomous snakes too.
They have the standard red-black-yellow pattern, while they can grow up to 36 inches in length.
These types of kingsnakes in Arizona will release a strong musk when threatened, often making would-be predators leave them alone.
18. Desert Kingsnakes
Scientific name: Lampropeltis splendida
Contrary to its name, desert kingsnakes aren’t found in deserts any more often than they’re found in other habitats.
They’ll often inhabit rural areas or areas near bodies of water. There, they usually feed on mice and rodents, but they’ll often eat rattlesnakes.
In fact, they’re useful to humans, as western diamondback rattlesnakes will actually leave an area if they catch the scent of a desert kingsnake.
Moreover, they’re completely harmless to people and they’ll also keep an area free from rodents.
These snakes are very dark and they often develop yellow bands or yellow speckles on the back.
Kingsnakes get their name from a trait they all share – they often eat other snakes, including venomous snakes. Most of these animals have some degree of venom immunity, while certain species are completely immune to snake venoms.
They’re widespread around the United States, while many species are also found in Mexico and southern parts of Canada. Some kingsnakes, particularly milk snakes, are very similar to coral snakes, but they aren’t venomous or in any way dangerous to humans.