25 Cool Facts About King Snakes

King snakes are fascinating creatures that exhibit a power and ferocity that doesn’t seem to match their bodies. If you were curious about these stupefying creatures, don’t be concerned. I was too, and so I started looking into it. These snakes are cool, and cool snakes deserve a cool facts list, so here we go.

1- King Snakes are Rated as One of the Friendliest Pet Snakes

Go ahead try it for yourself, look up, “the friendliest pet snakes” and you’ll pull up a list with the king snake on it. These snakes are very cool and not just in their abilities but in their composure as well.

King snakes are considered to be one of the most docile snakes out there, making them perfect to keep as a friendly companion in a terrarium.

On top of their friendly nature, they are inexpensive, low effort, and easily satisfied pets, making them perfect pets for someone with a busy twenty-first-century schedule.

2- King Snakes Eat Other Snakes

How do you put the “king” in king snake? By eating others of your own species of course. That’s right, any snake with “king” in their name, like the king cobra, have their royal title because no snake can dispute it. Anyone who tries is eaten, including other king snakes.

King snakes have been shown to take down enemies snakes that way out-size and overpower them but regardless they haven’t kept their title for nothing. Their power shows why it is that they deserve to be king, and after you hear about their feats you just may be bowing to them too.

3- King Snakes are Immune to Pit Viper Venom

Pit vipers are a group of the most venomous snakes in the world among their ranks are the rattlesnake, copperhead, and cottonmouth. But these creatures cannot dethrone the king.

King snakes are immune to the venom of these creatures which puts the pit viper right down there with simple garter snakes and corn snakes in regard to where the king snake’s next meal will come from. The threat posed to these vipers by king snakes is so real that rattlesnakes will retreat in the presence of one.

Rattlesnakes have grown so used to this issue that they can sense a king snake by smell. Furthermore, should they encounter a king snake the rattlesnake will lower their head and tail while arching their back, almost as if they are bowing, in an attempt to hit the king snake away from them.

4- King Snakes are Hunting Based Predators

Unlike several other species of snakes, including pit vipers, king snakes do not set ambushes for their prey. They chase their prey down through the underwood of the forest.

These snakes use their strong sense of smell to lock on to their prey and then they hunt it down. Using their bodies advantages in the categories of stealth and strong senses to lead them to their next target quietly and swiftly.

5- King Snakes Kill Through Constriction

Several snakes will use venom or their sharp fangs in an attempt to silence their prey but not the king snake. King snakes kill through constriction; this means they wrap themselves around their prey and then squeeze the life out of them. There are several misconceptions about this process though.

Some believe that the snake breaks the bones of their prey, or they believe that the snake suffocates their prey to death, neither of these are true. In reality, the king snake squeezes so tight that it shut off its prey’s circulatory system preventing blood from getting to the creature’s brain. The result is death by ischemia.

Following the death of the creature, the king snake will eat their prey whole.

6- King Snakes Can Produce More Constricting Pressure Than Necessary to Kill Their Prey

Several snakes are known to use constriction as a means of killing their prey. Most famously the boa constrictor does this, however, a snake does not have to be large to use constriction as a killing method.

King snakes and other in its size category demonstrate this. However, when tested against rat snakes, which were the same size as the tested king snakes, the king snakes came out on top each time. Using dead mice with pressure sensors in them researchers found that kings snakes could squeeze twice as hard as necessary to kill their prey.

You can find out more about this experiment here.

7- King Snake Use Mimicry to Scare Off Predators

King snakes have been known to be killed in the wild by humans because of how closely some of them resemble poisonous snakes. This defense has been enacted on purpose, as while a king snake may be able to take down a pit viper, they cannot take down a hawk.

However, several of the predators of the king snake don’t want to put up with the trouble of their venomous cousins so they’ll avoid the trademark colors of those snakes. To defend themselves king snakes have adapted their colors to match these poisonous snakes.

One of the most famous examples is the scarlet king snake which mimics the coral snake and has a famous rhyme about it, “Red on black, a friend of Jack. Red on yellow, a dangerous fellow.”

8- King Snakes Have Shiny Scales

King snakes have famously shiny scales that cover their body. This is one of the things that make them such attractive snakes but they are so well known for it that the scientific name for the snakes is, “Lampropeltis,” which translates from Greek to mean “shiny shield.”

That aesthetic appeal that makes them so beautiful is exactly what makes them, them. Funny how that works sometimes.

9- King Snakes Use Stench as a Defense

As if the king snake needed any more ways to defend themselves, they have an ability to release a musky stench from their bodies.

This works similar to a skunk spray where it deters predators from chasing after them. This works off of the simple natural sense that whatever you eat will not taste good if it does not smell good. Some have reported that the “musk,” as it is called, smells like rotten cucumbers while others claim it smells like rotten eggs.

10- King Snakes Will Shake Their Tails

Similar to their use of mimicry in color, the king snake will shake its tail in an attempt to scare off predators. They do this very confidently actually. Some have been seen using this as a taunting method to rattlesnakes that they are going to fight as well.

The king snakes confidence in the regard can often be seen as a last resort, as when it is attempting to scare larger mammal predators like coyotes they don’t have much else up their sleeve if their other defenses didn’t scare of their predator already.

11- King Snake Has a Diverse Diet

You may not think of snakes as picky eaters but several snakes stick to simply eating rodents. The king snake, however, will eat a large variety of creatures. From rodents, small birds, and frogs to turtles, lizards, and other snakes.

The creatures don’t have to be living either as king snakes will eat lizard, bird, and turtle eggs. These snakes live as hunters and they’re not afraid to keep themselves away from a hearty meal. King snakes, because of this reason, are seen as some of the most adaptable snakes.

12- King Snakes Lay 3 to 24 Eggs a Hatch

Female king snakes are not the best mothers. They lay their eggs and then leave there is no incubating those eggs or anything like that. As soon as you have dropped your eggs you’re gone, but the mother does lay quite the bounty of eggs, with the maximum egg count reaching 24 eggs.

The surviving snakes are instantly independent at birth. What is perhaps most concerning about this is that king snake will eat each other, so if a father or mother king snake that stumbles upon his child may very well eat them.  Now that is a messed up family.

13- King Snakes Live For a Long Time

Among one of the top reasons to own a snake is their long lives. If you’re going to get attached to a pet, you don’t want them leaving you too soon.

With king snakes that’s not a problem. In the wild, king snakes live between 20 to 30 years. In captivity, this number doesn’t increase but the longevity of the snake does lie closer to the high end of the spectrum.

Furthermore, the leading cause of death to king snakes are predators and prey that fight back too hard. Since this won’t be a problem if you are feeding your pet king snake pre-killed mice than those causes of death are none existent so expect your snake to be around for a long time.

14- King Snakes Are Docile But Unpredictable Pets

King snakes are reclusive snakes that generally don’t have a problem being handled, however, several don’t seem to fully grasp the owner-pet relationship and will bite at their owner’s fingers thinking that they are prey for it.

This, of course, isn’t true but be prepared to wrap a bandage around anything that does get bitten. These bites generally are not too harmful but they can be surprising.

If you watch your king snake carefully you will eventually be able to tell when it has entered its hunting mode and will attempt to eat your finger.

15- There Are Several Species And Subspecies of King Snake

While this is argued back and forth among the snake scholars of the world, it is a common belief that there are several subspecies if not species of king snakes.

Some even postulate that the category of king snake is too broad and should be broken in. The largest categories for this king snake split would be eastern or common kingsnake, black king snake, California king snake, speckled king snake, and the scarlet king snake.

16- King Snake Have Several Nicknames

Whether these names match the whole species or one of the subspecies depends on the name, but the list of nicknames is rather expansive.

Nicknames include wampum snake, jet black snake, thunder snake, salt and pepper snake, horse racer, oak-leaf rattler, crimson king, crimson snake, bastard horn snake, chain snake, chain king, cow sucker or master snake.

Chain snake refers to normal or eastern king snakes as they have a chain line pattern on their backs. Crimson king and Crimson snake are scarlet king snakes each of the nicknames working off of the coral snake like color, of the scarlet king snake. Salt and pepper snake is a reference to the speckled king snake as they are often black speckled white or visa-versa.

17- King Snakes are One of the Most Common Snakes in North America

That’s right if you live in the US, Canada, or Mexico chances are king snakes probably aren’t that hard to find. Granted king snakes are stealthy so maybe they are hard to find but generally, you’ll find this species of snake all over the North American continent.

So be careful if you think it’s a poisonous snake that you’re dealing with. It may be a harmless king snake. Harmless to humans that is.

18- King Snakes are not Harmful to Humans

Besides the potential to bite, that any snake may attempt, king snakes are not harmful to humans. In fact, since king snakes kill poisonous snakes it is beneficial to have them around.

As with all animals, snakes serve an important part of the food chain, and king snakes just so happen to serve the part where they eat other more deadly snakes. So just because the snakes are made out to be bad guys in the jungle book and Disney’s Robin Hood doesn’t mean they are all terrible creatures.

They are just living their lives and unsurprisingly king snakes are some of the best of the bunch.

19- King Snakes Have Excellent Senses

Several snakes have a poor sense of sight but not the king snake! They are up there with their sense of smell, touch, and heat sense but their sight hasn’t been very impacted.

These senses are all necessary for their active hunter nature they are capable of navigating the forest floor with all their senses going at one time. This allows them to be on top of their prey in as many ways as possible and gives them a league up on their snake competitors.

One additional way they use their senses is by feeling vibrations in the ground. Just another cool advantage that king snakes have.

20- King Snakes Use Their Tongues to Help Them Smell Chemical Trails

First of all, snakes do have nostril and can smell through them, but king snakes have a special sense they share with several snakes that allow them to wave their forked tongues to capture chemical trails in the air. This waving introduces the chemical to receptors in the top of the snake’s mouth allow for the snake to best follow the trail toward prey or more away from potential predators. 

21- Females Release a Chemical Trail When Ready to Mate

This trick is another tool that several species of snake use but the king snake uses a little more specific way than most.

Females, when they are ready to mate, will release a chemical trail and the male king snakes, using their advanced tongue smelling abilities, will pick up on the trail. But, unlike other snakes which may involve the female in a contest between males, king snakes just eat each other.

The surviving king snake will mate with the female. Of course, the male snakes can always run away, if they have the chance.

22- King Snakes Are Hard to Breed

I’m sure you can imagine why but to clue you in a little, they eat each other. This isn’t a joke; if you want to breed king snakes then you better be comfortable pulling them apart because if they aren’t in the mood to make kids one of them will be making dinner.

This gets even more confusing as, during mating, the male king snake will bite the neck of the female king snake so it’s not always the easiest to tell when they are in love or when they are enemies.

23- California King Snakes have a Seemingly Endless Number of Morphs

Morphs are different patterns that a snake can have and for California king snakes those patterns are pretty much limitless. Through natural breeding easily over 50 morphs have been found and that number has only increased as snake owners have been selectively breeding the snakes themselves. So while breeding may be hard if done right you can get some amazing possibilities. 

24-  King Snakes are on the Edge of Being Endangered

That’s right. King snakes have not had the easiest time living up for themselves despite all their natural defenses. There is one creature that seems immune to them, even provoked by them: humans.

Whether it be because someone just doesn’t like snakes, or they fear that the snake will be poisonous king snakes have declined greatly in number since the rise of humanity. Luckily they are not endangered yet. Their high adaptability has allowed the species to survive despite all the dangers that have come upon them.

25- King Snakes Reach Sexual Maturity at 2 to 3 Years of Age

That’s right king snakes grow fast, from when they are young they are immediately independent after that the snakes continue to grow shedding their skins at frequent rates until they reach maturity at 2 to 3 years of age. At their maturity, they have generally reached their largest heights and can now add their genes to the gene pool. Their shedding slows down at this point and they are able to continue with the adult snake live.