Physical characteristics and distribution
Most species of kingsnake have vibrant patterns on their skins with vivid contrasting colors. The patterns, especially bands and speckles, break up the snake’s body outline so it is less visible to predators like birds of prey, mammals like foxes and coyotes and other snakes, according to the San Diego Zoo.
Their coloring can be understood by their geographic location, according to Savitzky. For example, the farther west one goes in the eastern kingsnake’s range, the more the snakes’ coloring resembles the black kingsnake, which lives in Tennessee.
According to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park, they have smooth scales, a single anal plate, round pupils like most nonvenomous snakes, and a spoon-shaped head with a rounded jaw. They typically range from 2 to 6 feet (0.6 to 1.8 meters), depending on the species.
The following is a description of some common kingsnake species’ appearances and ranges.
Eastern kingsnake, also called common kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula)
These creatures are sometimes called “chain snakes” or “chain kings” because their distinctive markings can resemble a chain linked across their bodies, said Savitzky. They have shiny black scales with white or yellowish chain-like bands that cross their backs and connect on the sides. According to the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, eastern kingsnakes on the coast generally have wide bands while those in the eastern mountains have very thin bands. They may be nearly black.
Eastern kingsnakes are found from southern New Jersey to north Florida and west to the Appalachians and southeastern Alabama, according to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park.