Introduction to the California Kingsnake
The California Kingsnake is a species of large constrictor snake that is native to the western and southwestern United States and can be found from Southern Oregon and California, south to western parts of Mexico. These snakes grow to reach between five and six and a half feet in length and have a stout, smooth body. They have black, white and yellow color patterns that dance down their back in an irregular and almost checkerboard-like pattern. This vibrant coloring makes the California Kingsnake a highly sought after species for pet owners and collectors alike.
History of the California Kingsnake
The California Kingsnake is one of the most ancient and adaptable reptiles, which is perhaps the reason why it can be found in so many regions. In fact, it is believed that they evolved prior to the last Ice Age and now are believed to be at least 35 million years old. This is one of the few species of snake that have been able to survive, despite numerous changes throughout history. California Kingsnakes, in particular, can be found in a range of habitats and can live in both snowy and desert-like temperatures.
Behavior of the California Kingsnake
By nature, California Kingsnakes are solitary and prefer to hunt, eat and spend most of their time alone. During mating season, multiple males will compete for mating rights with a female, and the female will be left to care for the eggs and young. These snakes are largely nocturnal and will spend large amounts of time hiding in or among the branches or rocks they use as cover.
Just like several other species of snakes, the California Kingsnake will coil around its prey and squeeze it until their prey can no longer breathe. The California Kingsnake counts on its strong muscular coils to squeeze the life out of its prey and keep it from escaping. They are particularly fond of small mammals, bird eggs, and numerous species of lizards. Additionally, like many other species of snakes, California Kingsnakes can sometimes resort to cannibalism and will readily consume their own species.
Appearance of the California Kingsnake
The California Kingsnake is a medium-sized snake, growing from three to seven feet in length. It is identified by a black and white blotched pattern running along its back, which gradually turns into yellow and black stripes around its abdomen and sides. Its head is generally black and there is a white and yellow or yellow-white pattern running down the side of its neck. Its belly color is usually cream and can sometimes produce golden or coppery highlights.
California Kingsnakes can be found to have slight color pattern variations depending on the geographical regions they are originating in, but their blotched pattern on the back of the snake is what usually differentiates it from other similar looking snakes.
Care of the California Kingsnake
The California Kingsnake makes a fantastic pet due to its capabilities of living both inside and outside of enclosed habitats. When kept in captivity, California Kingsnakes require a substrate that can retain some moisture and retain its heat, such as aspen shavings or cypress mulch. They require a partially-enclosed shelter in one corner of the enclosure to help them feel protected and comfortable.
These snakes need to be fed every 5-7 days on an appropriate sized meal depending on the size of their jaw opening. For example, baby California Kingsnakes do well with thawed frozen mice, whereas adult California Kingsnakes will require larger prey such as thawed frozen rats. Along with appropriate prey items, California Kingsnakes need to be supplied with a
dish of fresh water and should be cleaned or refilled at least two to three times a week.
Health of the California Kingsnake
Given the right husbandry and care, California Kingsnakes are generally quite hardy and can live a long life. However, like any reptile, they are able to become ill or suffer health complications if the environment they live in is not properly maintained. Improper temperatures, too much humidity, bad diet, and poor sanitation can all contribute to a range of issues in California Kingsnakes.
The most common health issue found in California Kingsnakes is mites and other parasites. Particular signs to look out for include sluggishness and discoloration around the scales and eyes. Because mites and parasites can pass from snake to snake in the same enclosure, it is important to isolate any affected snakes until the issue can be treated.
Conservation of the California Kingsnake
The California Kingsnake is not globally threatened and is generally safe from any threats of endangerment. It has a large range including different habitats and climates, as well as a wide availability in the pet trade. However, some licenses and restrictions may apply in certain jurisdictions.
Because it naturally feeds on eggs, California Kingsnakes could be a potential hazard to new bird populations or endangered bird species and suitable sensible precautions should be taken when setting these animals loose in the wild. In the United States, particularly in California, many local counties are taking the initiative to remove exotic reptiles from the wild or to prevent them from being released.
The California Kingsnake is a highly sought after species of snake with a vibrant pattern that dances down its body. Its incredible ability to survive in a range of habitats combined with its solitaire and nocturnal characteristic makes it a desirable pet for many reptile owners. Although it is hardy and can live a long life with proper husbandry and care, it is important to stay up to date with all necessary licenses and knowledge, as well as to pay close attention to any health issues or changes to its habitat while these snakes are kept in captivity.
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