Lampropeltis getula

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Lampropeltis getula
Lampropeltis getula getula.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Genus: Lampropeltis
L. getula
Binomial name
Lampropeltis getula
(Linnaeus, 1766)

Lampropeltis getula, commonly known as the eastern kingsnake,[3] common kingsnake,[4] or chain kingsnake[5] (more), is a harmless colubrid species endemic to the United States and Mexico. It has long been a favorite among collectors.[5]Nine subspecies are currently recognized, including the nominate subspecies described here.[6]


L. g. getula can be quite docile even when caught wild.
Florida kingsnake in Dixie County, Florida

Adult specimens of the speckled kingsnake, L. g. holbrooki, are the smallest race at 91.5 cm (36.0 in) in snout-to-vent length (SVL) on average, while the nominate race, L. g. getula, is the largest at 107 cm (42 in) SVL on average.[7] Specimens up to 208.2 cm (82.0 in) in total length (including tail) have been recorded.[8] Weight can vary from 285 g (10.1 oz) in a small specimen of 87.2 cm (34.3 in) in total length, to 2,268 g (80.0 oz) in large specimens, of over 153 cm (60 in) in total length.[7][9]

The color pattern consists of a glossy black, blue-black, or dark brown ground color, overlaid with a series of 23-52 white chain-like rings.[5][10] King snakes from the coastal plains have wider bands, while those found in mountainous areas have thinner bands or may be completely black.[citation needed]

Common names[edit]

Common names for L. getula include eastern kingsnake,[3] common kingsnake,[4] chain kingsnake,[5] kingsnake, Carolina kingsnake, chain snake, bastard horn snake, black kingsnake, black moccasin, common chain snake, cow sucker, eastern kingsnake, horse racer, master snake, North American kingsnake, oakleaf rattler, pied snake, pine snake, racer, rattlesnake pilot, thunder-and-lightning snake, thunderbolt, thunder snake, wamper, wampum snake.[10]In North Carolina, it is also called the pied piper.

Geographic range[edit]

Lampropeltis getula is found in the United States in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, portions of Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, south and southwest Illinois, southern Indiana, southern Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, southern and western Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, southern Ohio, Oklahoma, southern Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, southern Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia. It is also found in northern Mexico, including all of Baja California.[2] It has been introduced to Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands where, in 2014, it was estimated that the population had reached 20,000 individuals.[11]


The preferred habitats of L. getula are open areas, particularly grassland, but also chaparral, oak woodland, abandoned farms, desert, low mountains, sand, and any type of riparian zone, including swamps, canals and streams.


Lampropeltis getula eats other snakes, including venomous snakes like copperheads (Agkistrodon contortrix) which are responsible for more venomous snakebites than any other in the United States.

It has developed a hunting technique to avoid being bitten by clamping down on the jaws of the venomous prey, but even if bitten, it is immune to the venom. It also eats amphibians, turtle eggs, lizards, and small mammals, which it kills by constriction.[12]


Lampropeltis getula is oviparous. Adult females lay up to several dozen eggs that hatch after 2-2.5 months of incubation. Hatchlings are brightly colored and feed on small snakes, lizards, and rodents.[5]

In captivity[edit]

Long a favorite among collectors, L. getula does well in captivity, living to 25 years or more. Some of the most popular subspecies of the common kingsnake kept in captivity are the California, Brooks', Florida, and Mexican black kingsnakes.[5]


Subspecies[6] Authority[6] Common name[6] Geographic range
L. g. brooksi Barbour, 1919 Brooks' kingsnake
L. g. californiae (Blainville, 1835) California kingsnake
L. g. floridana Blanchard, 1919 Florida kingsnake
L. g. getula (Linnaeus, 1766) eastern kingsnake
L. g. holbrooki Stejneger, 1902 speckled kingsnake
L. g. nigra (Yarrow, 1882) black kingsnake
L. g. nigrita Zweifel & Norris, 1955 Mexican black kingsnake
L. g. splendida (Baird & Girard, 1853) desert kingsnake
L. g. meansi Krysko & Judd, 2006 Apalachicola kingsnake The Apalachicola Lowlands, Florida


  1. ^ Hammerson, G.A. (2019). "Lampropeltis getula". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2019: e.T67662588A67662645. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2019-2.RLTS.T67662588A67662645.en. Retrieved 13 October 2020.
  2. ^ a b Lampropeltis getula at the Reptile Database. Accessed 29 June 2008.
  3. ^ a b Conant R (1975). A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America, Second Edition. (First published in 1958). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. 429 pp + 48 plates. ISBN 0-395-19979-4 (hardcover), ISBN 0-395-19977-8 (paperback). (Lampropeltis getulus getulus, p. 202).
  4. ^ a b Behler JL, King FW (1979). The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 743 pp. LCCCN 79-2217. ISBN 0-394-50824-6. (Lampropeltis getulus, pp. 618-620).
  5. ^ a b c d e f Mehrtens JM (1987). Living Snakes of the World in Color. New York: Sterling Publishers. 480 pp. ISBN 0-8069-6460-X.
  6. ^ a b c d "Lampropeltis getula". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 29 June 2008.
  7. ^ a b [1]
  8. ^ [2]
  9. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-07-14. Retrieved 2012-07-26.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ a b Wright AH, Wright AA (1957). Handbook of Snakes of the United States and Canada. 2 volumes. Ithaca and London: Comstock Publishing Associates. (7th printing, 1985). 1,105 pp. ISBN 0-8014-0463-0. (Lampropeltis getulus getulus, pp. 372-376).
  11. ^ John Bowler (2018). Wildlife of Madeira and the Canary Islands. Wild Guides. p. 164. ISBN 9780691170763.
  12. ^ Schmidt KP, Davis DD (1941). Field Book of Snakes of the United States and Canada. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. 365 pp. (Lampropeltis getulus, "Food", p. 176).

Further reading[edit]

  • Hubbs, Brian (2009). Common Kingsnakes: A Natural History of Lampropeltis getula. Tempe, Arizona: Tricolor Books. 436 pp. ISBN 978-0975464113.
  • Linnaeus C (1766). Systema naturæ per regna tria naturæ, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, diferentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I. Editio Duodecima, Reformata. Stockholm: L. Salvius. 532 pp. (Coluber getulus, new species, p. 382). (in Latin).
  • Powell R, Conant R, Collins JT (2016). Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America, Fourth Edition. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. xiv + 494 pp. ISBN 978-0-544-12997-9. (Lampropeltis getula, p. 379 + Plate 34).
  • Smith HM, Brodie ED Jr (1982). Reptiles of North America: A Guide to Field Identification. New York: Golden Press. 240 pp. ISBN 0-307-13666-3 (paperback), ISBN 0-307-47009-1 (hardcover). (Lampropeltis getula, pp. 180-181).
  • Stebbins RC (2003). A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians, Third Edition. The Peterson Field Guide Series ®. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company. xiii + 533 pp. ISBN 978-0-395-98272-3. (Lampropeltis getula, pp. 364-366 + Plate 44 + Map 153).

External links[edit]