Arizona Mountain Kingsnake (Lampropeltis pyromelana pyromelana)
Order: Squamata, Family: Colubridae
Arizona mountain kingsnake hatchlings measure 8 to 13 inches in length; adults grow to 18 to 44 inches long.
A colorful reptile, the kingsnake is banded with thin black bands between thicker red and white ones.
Its snout is white or yellow, and its head is usually black on top, sometimes with flashes of red over the eyes.
The kingsnake's large eyes sit on the sides of its head, and its nostrils are placed astride its snout.
II. GEOGRAPHICAL RANGE AND HABITAT:
- Arizona mountain kingsnake hatchlings measure 8 to 13 inches in length; adults grow to 18 to 44 inches long.
- A colorful reptile, the kingsnake is banded with thin black bands between thicker red and white ones.
- Its snout is white or yellow, and its head is usually black on top, sometimes with flashes of red over the eyes.
- The kingsnake's large eyes sit on the sides of its head, and its nostrils are placed astride its snout.
- The species's range extends from central and southeastern Arizona to the states of Chihuahua and Sonora in northern Mexico.
- Kingsnake habit includes mountainous regions, with snakes living in pinyon-juniper forests and chaparral, as well as pine-fir forests. They are often found near streams.
- Rock-dwelling creatures by nature, kingsnakes do not venture far from their rock-pile homes.
IV. LIFE CYCLE/SOCIAL STRUCTURE:
- Kingsnakes eat various lizard species, lizard eggs, rodents, birds and sometimes snakes.
V. SPECIAL NOTES/ADAPTATIONS:
- The Arizona mountain kingsnake is usually active in the morning and later afternoon; however, under very hot conditions, it reserves activity for nightfall.
- Because the kingsnake usually remains under rocks or in rock fissures, it keeps its body temperature regulated by moving up and down inside these rock piles, and rarely basks in the open.
- Arizona mountain kingsnakes hibernate during the winter.
- Kingsnakes first bite their prey, then kill it by constricting it with their suffocating coils.
- They mate between March and June.
- Between May and August, the female kingsnake lays a clutch of four to 20 eggs, and incubates them for 47 to 81 days.
- Hatchlings reach maturity by 3 to 4 years of age.
VI. ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT:
- The Arizona mountain kingsnake is nonvenomous.
- When foraging for baby birds, the kingsnake uses scutes (horny plates) on its belly to climb trees.
- Although regarded as docile, the kingsnake will hiss, strike and vibrate its tail when threatened.
- The Arizona mountain kingsnake's physical similarity to the western coral snake may be the result of Batesian mimicry. (Batesian mimicry occurs when a harmless species evolves to resemble another species that possesses an anti-predator defense, such as venom).
- When disturbed, the kingsnake emits a foul-smelling musk that predators with a strong sense of smell find repugnant. The attacker will often release the snake before any extensive damage is done.
VII. POPULATION STATUS:
- Kingsnakes help keep rodent populations in check.
VIII. MORE KINGSNAKE FACTS:
- The species is protected in Arizona.
- Though harmless, the kingsnake is often killed because of its resemblance to the venomous coral snake.
- The kingsnake derives its name from its habit of eating other snakes, including rattlesnakes, copperheads and coral snakes. It is immune to their venom.