Lampropeltis getula holbrooki

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Lampropeltis getula holbrooki
Speckled King Snake.jpg
speckled kingsnake
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Genus: Lampropeltis
Species: L. getula
Subspecies: L. g. holbrooki
Trinomial name
Lampropeltis getula holbrooki
Stejneger, 1902

Lampropeltis getula holbrooki, commonly known as the speckled kingsnake or black pepper snake, is a nonvenomous subspecies of kingsnake, which is endemic to the United States.


Close-up head of an adult near Natchez, Mississippi

Speckled kingsnakes usually grow up to 48 inches (120 cm) in total length (including tail), but the record total length is 72 inches (180 cm). The common name is derived from the pattern, which is black, with small yellow-white specks, one speck in the center of almost every dorsal scale. They are also known as the "salt-and-pepper snake".[2]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

It is found in the central to southern United States from southern Iowa to the Gulf of Mexico.[3] Its range overlaps that of the desert kingsnake, Lampropeltis getula splendida, and it is known to intergrade with that subspecies.

They prefer wetter habitats than other kingsnakes, like swamps and rivers, but they do commonly venture to dry areas like woodlands and grassy fields.


Their diet consists of mammals, birds, rodents, frogs, lizards and other snakes. They kill by constriction.


When threatened, the speckled kingsnake will shake its tail like a rattlesnake to deter predators. They frequently expel musk and feces or bite when threatened.

They are usually docile, often striking only one or two times after capture, and are frequently kept as pets. They are commonly captive bred.


This snake was first described by Holbrook in 1842. At that time he called it Coronella sayi under the mistaken impression that it was the species previously described by Schlegel as Coluber sayi. In 1902 Stejneger pointed out that because Coluber sayi is a different snake (Pituophis catenifer sayi), the name sayi could not be applied to this snake. Therefore, he proposed the name Lampropeltis holbrooki, honoring Holbrook.[4][5] It is currently considered a subspecies of L. getula.


  1. ^ The Reptile Database.
  2. ^ Conant R. 1975. A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America, Second Edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. xviii + 429 pp. + Plates 1-48. ISBN 0-395-19979-4 (hardcover), ISBN 0-395-19977-8 (paperback). (Lampropeltis getulus holbrooki, pp. 203-204 + Plate 29 + Map 156).
  3. ^ "Speckled Kingsnake". Retrieved 2009-03-16. 
  4. ^ Blanchard FN. 1921. "A Revision of the King Snakes: Genus Lampropeltis ". Bull. U.S. Nat. Mus. (114): 1-260.
  5. ^ Beolens B, Watkins M, Grayson M. 2011. The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. xiii + 296 pp. ISBN 978-1-4214-0135-5. (Lampropeltis getula holbrooki, p. 125).

Further reading[edit]

  • Behler JL, King FW. 1979. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 743 pp. ISBN 0-394-50824-6. (Lampropeltis getulus holbrooki, p. 619 + Plate 560).
  • Conant R, Bridges W. 1939. What Snake Is That?: A Field Guide to the Snakes of the United States East of the Rocky Mountains. (With 108 drawings by Edmond Malnate). New York and London: D. Appleton-Century. Frontispiece map + viii + 163 pp. + Plates A-C, 1-32. (Lampropeltis getulus holbrooki, pp. 77–78 + Plate12, Figure 35).
  • Holbrook JE. 1842. North American Herpetology; or, A Description of the Reptiles Inhabiting the United States. Vol. III. [Second Edition]. Philadelphia: J. Dobson. 128 pp. + 30 plates. (Coronella sayi, pp. 99–101 + Plate 22).
  • Hubbs, Brian. 2009. Common Kingsnakes: A Natural History of Lampropeltis getula. Tempe, Arizona: Tricolor Books. 436 pp. ISBN 978-0-9754641-1-3.
  • 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 holbrooki, pp. 176–177, Figure 50 + Plate 19).
  • Stejneger L. 1902. "The Reptiles of the Huachuca Mountains, Arizona". Proc. U.S. Nat. Mus. 25: 149-158. (Lampropeltis holbrooki, new name, p. 152).
  • Wright AH, Wright AA. 1957. Handbook of Snakes of the United States and Canada. Ithaca and London: Comstock. 1,105 pp. (in two volumes). (Lampropeltis getulus holbrooki, pp. 387–391, Figure 118 + Map 33 on p. 373).

External Links[edit]