Lampropeltis californiae

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Scientific name Lampropeltis californiae (BLAINVILLE, 1835)
English name California King Snake
Habitat Occurs in almost all habitats within the distribution range.
Distribution The distribution area of L. californiae is one of the most extensive of all Lampropeltis species. This species occurs in northern Oregon and then further south-eastwards, via the Great Basin, in Nevada and Utah. From there, eastwards to the far southwest of Colorado and southwards through almost entirely California and Arizona into the Mexican states of Sonora, Baja California Norte and Baja Sur.

This species has been (successfully) introduced on the island of Gran Canaria (Spain, Europe).

News-article about L. californiae on Gran Canaria


Previously, this species was known as a subspecies of Lampropeltis getula (L. g. Californiae).

Systematics Of The Common Kingsnake Lampropeltis Getula And The Burden Of Heritage In Taxonomy, 2009 A.Pyron

When it is not very warm, this species is active during the day; when it is extreme warm during the day, they are mainly active during the evening and night. Usually not an “aggressive” species.

In the wild, they eat just about any prey they catch get and is not too big to swallow.

Rodents, birds, eggs, frogs, salamanders/newts, small tortoises, lizards and snakes (even rattlesnakes, for whose venom they are immune) are all on their menu. Also, the eating of invertebrates was observed.

In the terrarium, they are doing well on a diet of mice.

At birth, they are, on average, between 20 and 30 cm long.

Adult specimen are most of the time between 75 and 110 cm long, but there are exceptions up to 200 cm known. It is the largest species of all King and Milksnakes. Ages up to 20 years are no exception for this species.

Male California King Snakes hold ritual fights in spring, when they encounter each other, for the favour of a female.

Copulations take place during the first weeks after the brumation; most of the time after the first skin shedding of that year. During the copulation the male bites the female to hold her.

Four to eight weeks after the copulation (most of the time after six weeks) the female lays between 3 and 24 eggs (on average 8 – 10).

After six to eight weeks the eggs hatch.

This species is very variable in appearance. This makes it difficult to describe. Therefore, you can click on the image at the top of this page to see how they look. it will become clear then…

Lampropeltis californiae eats a Crotalus orgenaus helleri © James Patrick Jones

It is not difficult or complicated to care for in the terrarium. A large terrarium for adults is recommended. Make sure the terrarium is escape-free! This species is a master in finding each hole.

A part of the keepers of this species keeps every individual in a separate terrarium, but there are also a lot who keep adult pairs together. Most of the time this is no problem. Personally, I kept a male and two females, during a few years, together in a relatively small terrarium some years ago. There were no problems. They were placed together when they were two years.

When you place two adult specimen together in the same terrarium you have to keep an eye on them for a while. When there is no aggression and/or they do not try to eat each other, then it is generally okay. And before you place them together, clean the terrarium and re-decorate it.

Do not place two males together!

Important is that they are the same length (preferably longer than 60-70 cm) and feed them separately. When they have eaten, leave them separated for some hours before you place them together again. Observe them some time to see if things don’t go wrong.

Specimen that are less than ca. 60 cm are best kept alone in a terrarium. With these young animals, the likelihood of eating each other is relatively large.

Young specimen usually do better in small terrariums than in large…

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