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King Snake (Lampropeltis species)

Care of your King Snake

King Snake : Lampropeltis species

Hatchlings- The hatchlings of most king snakes are generally hardy and easy to care for. They will require a diet of appropriately sized rodents (in this case, pinkie or newborn mice). The right size food item is often a little larger than the snakes own head and the snakes ability to disengage its jawbones and stretch around the prey item allows the snake to accomplish an amazing eating feat. A vitamin and mineral supplement can be added to the prey item just prior to feeding, but some snakes (particularly young ones) will refuse the prey if it smells unfamiliar. Dusting only the rear end of the mouse and not the head may be acceptable to many snakes. Hatchlings may be fed twice a week for the first few months to get a good body weight initially, but then cut it back to once weekly. I recommend keeping a small water bowl available at all times for baby snakes, just be sure to clean it regularly.

Adults- The adults are maintained in much the same way. Using a larger prey item feedings can be scaled back to every 7 to 10 days throughout the warmer months of the year. They donít need vitamin supplementation quite as often either, maybe with every other to every third feeding. I often supply water to adult snakes once or twice a week and then remove the water bowl as they tend to spill the water or defecate in it.

General- The group of snakes referred to as King Snakes is a large and diverse group of snakes. Most of the common varieties of king snakes you will encounter in pet stores are found in the United States, from the southwest (and Mexico) north to California, east across the U.S., and up the east coast from Florida to Maine. They are largely diurnal and crepuscular snakes, most active at dusk and dawn, with a period of rest in the daytime hours to avoid the heat of the day. The diet of many kingsnakes includes other snakes, a fact that you must keep in mind if you attempt to keep more than one to a cage (not recommended) or if you keep more than one snake and handle them frequently. A 10-gallon tank will comfortably house a baby to juvenile snake, but an adult will need more space. At least a 30-gallon tank, or caging with similar space to it is more appropriate for an adult snake. In general, the snake should be able to fully stretch out along the longest side of the tank. A plastic shoe or sweater box for the hatchlings or juveniles is acceptable and is easy to keep sanitary. Paper towels or newspaper make cleaning quick and easy and eliminates the possibility of ingesting any substrate. We use and recommend a shredded aspen bedding for babies and adults alike, as it is absorbent, easy to spot clean, relatively cost effective, and the snakes may burrow into it to feel more secure. Adding some rocks, branches, and small plants (live or plastic) will make an interesting landscape for your snake to explore and add something for the snake to rub against when it has outgrown its skin and needs to shed. Providing an area where they can hide, such as a rock shelter or hide-box is essential and this should be placed on the cool end of the tank. Keep a heat pad, or thermostat controlled heat rock available at all times on the warm end of the tank. Proper heating is essential to digestion and the snake should have access to an area that is in the range of 85 to 90 degrees. Lighting is a matter of personal choice and doesnít need to be too fancy since the snakes donít seem to care, just be sure your snake always has access to shelter from the light and heat if they so choose. Put the lights on a timer to give the snake a sense of a day time and a night time, 12 hours on and 12 hours off. Lastly, make certain the cage you keep your snake in has a tight fitting, escape proof cover. Use cage cover clips if you have a screen cover. Any means of escape will be discovered by the snake.

Recommended Species:
Beginners: Moderate: Advanced:

California King
Mexican Black King
Eastern Chain King
Florida King

Variable King (Thayeri)
Mexican King
Grey-Banded King
Arizona Mountain King

King SnakeThe differences in the categories above are mainly issues related to feeding hatchling snakes. Usually, the snakes in the beginner category are easy reliable feeders, the moderates are sometimes hit or miss, and the advanced are more specialized feeders that naturally would prefer small lizards and snakes to rodent prey and can be extremely reluctant feeders to the point of starving themselves to death without intervention (i.e. force feeding).

Other Helpful Info-

ř Always buy a healthy captive bred animal and learn as much as you can from the source that you are buying it from, such as age, sex, what is it eating, etc.

ř Find a local veterinarian who is knowledgeable about reptiles before any problems arise!

ř Buy a good book about King Snakes or at least a book with a decent section about these animals and keep it on hand for reference. This care sheet contains only initial information to get you started and is by no means complete.

ř Enjoy your King Snake! These are fun and interesting pets.

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