Lampropeltis nigra

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Scientific name Lampropeltis nigra
English name Black Kingsnake
Distribution From southern Illinois to Ohio and then south through the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains and the basin from the Alabama River to the Gulf Coast in southern Alabama. Then along the eastern coast of the Mississippi River to Louisiana.
Habitat This species inhabits all kinds of habitats. For example, they are found on/near (abandoned) farms, agricultural land, grass and herb fields, forest areas, waste mountains, on floodplains along rivers and areas with a lot of bushes and in marsh areas. The species also occurs in suburban areas.
Details Until 2009 this snake species was a subspecies of Lampropeltis getula (L. g. Nigra).

Pyron, R. Alexander; Frank T. Burbrink 2009. Systematics of the Common Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula; Serpentes: Colubridae) and the burden of heritage in taxonomy. Zootaxa 2241: 22-32

L. nigra is a medium-sized snake species with an average length of between 90 and 120 cm. There are specimen measured that were about 180 cm long. At birth, the young are between 20 and 30 cm long. These snakes can easily become 10-15 years old, with outliers of up to about 20 years.


Their basic colour is black with sometimes vague traces of lighter crossbands on their back sometimes. The belly side has a checkerboard pattern of black and white/ yellowish/cream coloured squares.

Each scale on the back has a yellow or white speck in the middle. With specimens from the southern part of their range, the speckles are clearly visible the most. The farther you go to the north, the vaguer the speckles are, making adults look almost black.

When the brumation ends in the spring, the copulations begin. The eggs (up to about 20) are laid at the beginning of the summer. At the end of the summer or the beginning of autumn, the eggs hatch, usually about 60 days after they have been laid.

The young usually have yellow, white or cream coloured crossbands that disappear on their way to adulthood. Often they also have some irregular spots on their flanks.

This snake species often eats other snakes (also venomous ones, such as pit vipers). The Black Kingsnake is immune to the venom of these pit vipers (including Agkistrodon and Crotalus). Besides snakes, they also eat lizards, small rodents (mice and rats), birds and their eggs. It is also known that they eat specimen of their own kind that are smaller than themselves (cannibalism).


Is mainly living on the ground but is able to climb, although they do not do this often. Remains for a large part of the day under tree stumps, in old rodent dens, under waste, etc. Is most active in the morning or evening hours and sometimes during the day when it is cloudy. Is rarely seen sunbathing.

When this snake feels threatened, at first it will rattle violently with its tail. If he is still picked up, he will empty the anal glands to inject a stinking liquid onto his attacker. Another behaviour for self-protection has also been observed. The snake then coils up to a ball with its head hidden between the twists. Of course, they flee if they get the chance. They then disappear remarkably fast.

Main enemies of adult Black Kingsnakes are opossums, skunks and racoons.

Remarkably often this species is not harmed by people. One easily recognizes them as non-dangerous, useful snakes.