What kind of snake is this?

Asked May 15, 2018, 4:36 PM EDT

What kind of snake is this??

South Carolina lampropeltis getula getula eastern kingsnake

1 Response

Thank you for your question. The snake in your photograph is an eastern kingsnake, scientific name (Lampropeltis getula getula). It is a non-venomous species. Typical length is 4 - 5 feet, and maximum length can be over 6 feet.

There are six subspecies of the common kingsnake. The eastern subspecies occurs from New Jersey, south to north Florida and west to portions of Alabama. They are found in a variety of habitats, including hardwoods, sandhills, pinewoods, savannas, meadows, and urban and agricultural areas. Also, although a terrestrial species, this snake is often found in the grassy shorelines of swamps, streams and even coastal marshes.

Kingsnakes are constrictors and are famous for their ability to eat our venomous pit vipers (copperheads (Agkistrodon contortrix), cottonmouths (Agkistrodon piscivorus) and rattlesnakes (Crotalus and Sistrurus species). They are immune to the venom of these species. However, they don't eat strictly venomous snakes. They are opportunistic feeders, and they will also eat other snakes, lizards, rodents, birds, bird eggs, small turtles and turtle and snake eggs.

When threatened, this species will often rapidly vibrate its tail and assume a striking position. They may also release a strong-smelling musk from anal glands at the base of their tail. If you attempt to handle them, they will often bite. However, these behaviors may disappear in a short amount of time, and this snake can often be easily handled.

For more information about this species, check out the following websites:

Amphibians and Reptiles of North Carolina:
http://herpsofnc.org/eastern-kingsnake/

Snakes of South Carolina and Georgia - The Savannah River Ecology Laboratory:

https://srelherp.uga.edu/snakes/lamget.htm

Here are some excellent field guides that you may find useful in learning more about the snakes in your area:

Gibbons, Whit. (2017). Snakes Of The Eastern United States. Athens: The University of Georgia Press.

Gibbons, Whit and Dorcas, Mike. (2015). Snakes of the Southeast, (2nd edition). Athens: The University of Georgia Press.

Hope this answers your question, and thank you for contacting Ask an Expert.

Jim