Lampropeltis calligaster

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Prairie kingsnake
Lampropeltis calligaster calligaster.jpg
Prairie kingsnake
Lampropeltis calligaster calligaster
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Genus: Lampropeltis
Species: L. calligaster
Binomial name
Lampropeltis calligaster
(Harlan, 1827)
  • Coluber calligaster Harlan, 1827
  • Ablabes triangulum var. calligaster Hallowell, 1856
  • Ophibolus calligaster Cope, 1900

Lampropeltis calligaster is a species of kingsnake known commonly as the prairie kingsnake.

Geographic range[edit]

It is found throughout the midwestern and southeastern United States, from Nebraska to Virginia, Florida to Texas.


It is light brown or grey in color, with dark grey, dark brown, or reddish-brown blotching down the length of their bodies. They are capable of growing to lengths of 30-40 inches (76.2-101.6 cm). They are easily mistaken for various species of rat snake of the genus Pantherophis, which share habitat, and can have similar markings. Some specimens have their markings faded, to appear almost a solid brown color. Juveniles usually have a brown stripe down the back of their bodies. They have two black spots behind the head and smaller black spots down the back on both sides of the stripe.


Prairie kingsnakes' preferred habitat is open grassland with loose, dry soil, typically on the edge of a forested region, not far from a permanent source of water. Their diet consists primarily of rodents, but they will also consume lizards, frogs and occasionally other snakes. They are nonvenomous, and typically docile. Like most colubrids, if harassed they will shake their tail, which if in dry leaf litter can sound remarkably like a rattlesnake. They are not typically prone to biting, and if handled will often excrete a foul-smelling musk. When threatened, they flatten and appear to have white spots.