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Common King Snake


Order: Squamata
Family: Colubridae
Genus/species: Lampropeltis getulus


Common, or Eastern, king snakes are medium-sized snakes reaching three to six feet (.9 to 1.8 m) in length. Often called 'chain snakes' or 'chain kings' because of the white chain-like markings on their body, this snake is easily recognized. The snake is a shiny black with a criss-cross pattern of white or yellow lines. The stomach is checkered in black and yellow. They have smooth scales and a single anal plate.

Eastern king snakes hide under various objects in their environment. As a defense they give off a smelly musk when captured and may bite. They also vibrate the tail when captured or alarmed; if the snake is in leaves the sound is like that of a rattle.

Distribution and Habitat:

The eastern king snake range includes southern New Jersey to West Virginia, south to north Florida, and west to the Appalachians and southeastern Alabama.

This species is mainly terrestrial, but tends to hang out around the margins of streams, marshes, and swamps. This is probably because they tend to feed on water snakes and turtle eggs. They can also be found in open fields, forests, and abandoned dwellings.

Diet in the Wild:

They feed on other snakes, small mammals, lizards, birds, turtle eggs, and frogs. They are a constrictor.

Zoo Diet:

The eastern king snake is fed mice, rats, and chicks.


The eastern king snake mates in the spring and lay eggs mid-summer. The young hatch in late summer or early fall.

Life Span:



The eastern king snake is not considered threatened or endangered.

Fun Facts:

Their real claim to fame is the ability to kill and eat other snakes, including venomous species like cottonmouths and rattlesnakes. Because of their natural immunity to pit-viper venom, the bite from a venomous snake has little effect on them.