Lampropeltis getulus

Order: Squamata

Husbandry Information

Housing Requirements

  • Temperature, Humidity, & Lighting:
    • Temperature:
    • Humidity:
    • Lighting:
  • Substrate:

Diet Requirements

  • In the wild, kingsnakes eat lizards, mice, eggs, and birds. They can also eat venomous snakes, including rattlesnakes, copperheads, and coral snakes. They can do this because they are immune to the venom of these snakes. (This is why they are the “king of the snakes.”)
  • In captivity, they are fed rodents.

Veterinary Concerns

Notes on Enrichment & Training


Colony or Breeding Management

Notes species is housed or managed socially or for breeding purposes.

Individual Identification

Dimorphism or practiced ways to individually mark species (such as those in colonies, like giant millipedes).

Programmatic Information


hot water bottle

Temperature Guidelines

  • Brandywine Zoo: During cool weather (under 65°F), supplemental heat is provided with a hot water bottle set to one side of the cooler. Wrap bottle with newspaper for lizards or snakes traveling with the bottle loose, to make cleanups easier in the case of defecation while traveling.



  • Brandywine Zoo: reptiles travel in a Coleman style coolers that have been amended with extra ventilation holes on the lid (with a wood-burning tool). Small and medium sized snakes travel inside an inside-out, knotted pillowcase. Large snakes travel loose in the cooler that is also bungeed shut. For lizards, the cooler is lined with newspaper.
  • lg cooler sm cooler cooler

Tips on Presentation

Touching Techniques

Tips on Handling


Potential Messaging

  • In general, animals seen at the zoo do not make good pets. Most have specialized dietary, veterinary, housing, and social needs that are difficult or impossible for even dedicated pet owners to meet. Always ensure that your future pet has not been taken from the wild. Capture of wild animals for the pet trade has significantly damaged the survival prospects of species such as sloths, tamanduas, and many parrots. Captured animals are typically mistreated by profit-motivated traffickers and dealers, resulting in many animal deaths; well-meaning animal lovers may feel like they are rescuing animals by purchasing them but are really perpetuating the cruelty. In addition, many exotic pets are released by their owners when they become too dangerous or demanding, often with devastating effects on local ecosystems. Animals that should never be kept as pets include all bats, primates, and exotic carnivores. Birds, fish, and reptiles have specialized needs, are frequently wild-caught, and damage the local environment if released; guests should be advised to educate themselves and proceed with caution. Domestic dogs and cats are almost always the best option! Many deserving animals are available for adoption at animal shelters.
  • Snakes are an important link in the food chain. They provide food for many bird and mammal species that prey on them. The main diet of most snakes is rodents. Therefore, snakes provide a very valuable service – pest control. Most snakes are non-venomous and will avoid humans if they can. Venomous snakes want to use their venom to kill small prey animals or to defend themselves; since humans are too big to be considered prey by most snakes, the best way to avoid a bite is not to make the snake feel threatened. Ask guests to avoid any snakes they may see in the wild and appreciate them from a distance.

Acquisition Information


Comments from the Rating System

  • Lee Richardson Zoo: different individuals have had very different temperaments. Often require a great deal of handling and a few years of maturity before becoming ideal program animals.
  • Zoo America: Overall a good species, but tends to be more bite-y. We’ve had a few that have had complications with cancerous tumors.

Natural History Information

Range and Habitat

Kingsnakes live from southwest Oregon south to extreme southern Baja California, east to southern Utah and western Arizona. They can live in a variety of habitats, but they are usually associated with rocky outcrops, brushy semi-desert areas, brushy hillsides, or pine forests.

Physical Description

This is a moderate-large chocolate-brown to black snake with bold yellow-to-white crossbands. Some specimens have a light back stripe instead of crossbands. They have shiny, smooth scales. They can be 3 to 6 feet in length, but are usually less than 4 feet long.

Life Cycle

Kingsnakes breed from mid-March to June. Clutch size ranges from 3 to 24. Eggs are creamy white to yellowish, and elongated. Incubation takes 55 to 60 days to hatch, depending on the incubation temperature. When they hatch, new snakes are 8 to 10 inches in length.

Kingsnakes become sexually mature after 1.5 to 2 years. Usually these snakes live for 10 to 15 years, but they can exceed 24 years in age.


Kingsnakes are primarily terrestrial, although they occasionally climbing into shrubs. They are diurnal, particularly active early in the morning or near dusk, but they will become nocturnal in the warm summer months. They are docile, and rarely bite.

Threats and Conservation Status

Kingsnakes are not considered endangered.

Did you know…

  • Lampropeltis translates to “shiny shield,” and probably refers to their shiny, smooth scales.




Any Documents to attach, species spotlights, etc.

Contributors and Citations

  • The Philadelphia Zoo
  • Houston Zoo, Natural Encounters