Congratulations on welcoming a snake to your family. We here at Four Seasons Animal Hospital want to help you with your new friend, starting with the basics…
Did you know that there are more than 2,700 species of snakes all found on every continent except Antarctica. They live in deserts, forests, oceans, streams, and lakes. Many snakes are ground dwellers, and some live underground. Others dwell in trees, and still others spend most of their time in water.
There are several species of kingsnake and their habitat and range vary. The Eastern kingsnake is found in humid forests of the eastern seaboard states and as far west as the Appalachians and Alabama. The California kingsnake is native to desert, arid grassland, and rocky hillsides of Baja Mexico and the western United States. Pets may be bred in captivity or wild-caught.
Color & Size
Hatchlings are gray with black dorsal saddles. Although an array of color morphs are available, adult Eastern kingsnakes are dark chocolate or black with white, cream, or yellow cross-bands. This species is usually between 4-6 ft (1.2-1.8 m) in length, while California kingsnakes are usually 3-4 ft (0.9-1.2 m) long. The ground color of the California kingsnake is black or brown with a pattern of white, cream, or yellow stripes or bands. Sexually maturity is reached at approximately 200 g (7 oz) in males or 225 g (8 oz) in females. Kingsnakes are typically 18 months of age by this time.
Most kingsnakes live 15+ years in captivity.
Free-ranging kingsnakes prey upon rodents, lizards, and frogs and especially upon other snakes. Captive specimens will eat mice and small rats. An adult may be fed 1 to 3 mice once weekly and should only be fed, killed prey.
As a reptile grows, its old skin become too tight and worn. When ready to shed you will noticed your snake’s eyes turn a milky blue over the course of several days, and the body color will start to dull and develop a whitish sheen. Once the eyes have cleared, your snake is ready to shed.
Kingsnakes are solitary and will kill and eat other snakes. Similarly sized adults can be housed together for breeding, but are otherwise maintained separately in most cases.
Cage Size & Design
At minimum, adults require a long, 20-gallon (75-L) aquarium or terrarium.
Provide visual security in the form of multiple hide boxes. Although kingsnakes are active, these terrestrial snakes do not require a climbing branch. Commercial substrate such as aspen bedding is recommended.
Provide a temperature gradient of 70-85°F (21-28°C) with a 10-15°F (2-5°C) drop at night. A winter cool-down or “brumation” is also recommended for healthy specimens.
Humidity & Water
Provide a water bowl large enough for the snake to completely immerse its body, and heavy enough that the animal will not tip it over. Shedding may also be helped by the presence of a humidity box” or a hiding place filled halfway with damp sphagnum moss. Place the container half on and half off the heat.
Kingsnakes are fairly docile, medium-sized, hardy reptiles, that make good “starter” snake pets.
When handling a snake, take care not to smell like snake food (i.e. rodents or rabbits) but washing your hands thoroughly before handling. Support the head, neck, and body.