Lampropeltis splendida

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Scientific name Lampropeltis splendida
English name Desert Kingsnake; Sonora Kingsnake
Herkomst In the southwest of the United States of America (Arizona, Texas and New Mexico) and in the northwest of Mexico (San Luis Potosi, Durango, Tamaulipas, Chihuahua).There are also some isolated observations known of Southern Colorado.
Biotoop Contrary to what the non-scientific name suggests, this species mainly lives in areas with a normal moisture balance, often in the vicinity of water. Moreover, dry areas are not avoided.

They occur in almost all types of agricultural area. They are also found in areas with much mesquite scrubs (Prosopis), grasslands, areas with all kinds of other scrubs, along the edges of forests and in the forests themselves.

Bijzonderheden This species has long been considered as a subspecies of Lampropeltis getula (L. g. splendida). In 2009, this snake got the species status.


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


This medium-sized species is on average between 90 and 120 cm long, with a maximum of approx. 180 cm.

ca. 8 months old

It is distinguished from comparable species by the colour pattern. The basic colour is black or dark brown. There are a lot of yellow dots on the flanks and the back. As a result, 20 to about 42 brown/black saddle stains or cross bands can be seen on the back. The head is black or dark brown and the labial shields are to a large extent light coloured.

The belly side is black or dark brown with sometimes white or yellowish spots on the edges.

See the clickable photo at the top of this page to get a clear picture.

These mainly evening and night-active species hide most of the day under all kinds of material, such as stumps, waste, stones, rock crevices, holes, etc.

When they meet people in nature they will try to flee, but when they do not succeed they will vibrate violently with their tail. If they are caught, they will try to spray their assailant with smelly musky fluid from their anal glands.

Sometimes they also pretend to be dead when they cannot flee.

In captivity, however, they quickly get used to it and usually do fine.

The breeding period takes place in April and May, after which eggs are laid in June and July. Clutches vary from 5 to 12 eggs. The eggs hatch between the end of August and the beginning of October. At birth, the young are between 17 and 25 cm long.

ca. 6 months old

L. splendida is a strong snake that, in the wild, feeds itself  with, among other things, snakes (also rattlesnakes; especially at the beginning of autumn many young Western Diamond Rattlesnakes (Crotalus atrox) fall to prey to L. splendida, during which time they occur en masse in their habitat), lizards, mammals and birds. The consumption of frogs has been observed, as are eggs of reptiles and birds. This kingsnake species also seems to be immune to the venom of the venomous snakes it eats.

It seems that in nature this species does well; no serious threats are known for its survival. Its appearance in a wide variety of habitats will play a role in this. This species apparently adapts easily to all kinds of living conditions.

Hybrids are known from the border regions between this species and L. californiae and L. holbrooki.