Lampropeltis calligaster calligaster
The Prairie Kingsnake is light in color with dark brown blotches on its body. There is a marking shaped like a backwards-pointing arrow on the top of its head. Its underside is cream or yellow in color.
Prairie Kingsnakes average 30-40 inches in length.
- The Prairie Kingsnake is non-venomous and kills its prey by strangulation.
- A snake's long and slender shape helps it to move through grasses without making very much noise.
- Snakes' teeth point towards the back of their mouth. This helps them to keep their prey items, which are swallowed whole, moving in the right direction.
- Snakes smell by using their tongues! The forked ends of the tongue fit into two holes in the snake's mouth that are part of Jacobsen's organ. This organ transmits information about the smell to the brain.
Prairie Kingsnakes are predators, consuming a wide variety of prey including mammals, birds, frogs, lizards, eggs, and other snakes. Rodents make up the majority of their diet. At Cosley Zoo, the Kingsnake is fed mice and chicks. The snakes at Cosley Zoo are not fed live prey.
Females lay eggs once a year in June or July. The Prairie Kingsnake lays between 6 and 17 eggs at a time. The eggs have thick, leathery shells and are buried under dirt or in leaf litter. After about 2 months, the eggs hatch and the young snakes will come out. The female leaves the nest shortly after laying the eggs and provides no care for the developing eggs or the young snakes.
Shelter and Space Needs
This type of snake can occupy a variety of habitats, although it is most frequently found in prairie or grassland areas. In the winter, snakes travel to dens where they stay with other snakes for the winter. They go through a process similar to hibernation, in which their body temperatures drop and heart rates and breathing slow down.
Importance to Man
Prairie Kingsnakes are beneficial to people because they help to control the rodent population.
- Although many people think that snakes are slimy, their scales really just feel dry. Snakes have diamond-shaped scales on the top of their body, and long skinny scales called scutes on their undersides.
- The entire body of a snake is covered with scales—even its eyes! Because of this, snakes have no eyelids and cannot blink or close their eyes.
- If a Prairie Kingsnake is alarmed, it will quickly vibrate its tail. If the snake is in dry leaves at the time, this can mimic the sound of a rattlesnake.
- Most snakes don't eat every day. The snakes at Cosley Zoo eat only once a week. Snakes such as anacondas that prey on larger animals may have the ability to go several months between meals.
- Kingsnakes received their name because they consume other types of snakes, even venomous ones. They can do this because they are immune to the venom of many types of snakes.