Eastern Black Kingsnake (Lampropeltis nigra)


This species is black with yellow spots. The scales are smooth. Perfectly patterned adults will have a single yellow dot on each dorsal body scale. The belly is checkered boldly with black and bright yellow blocks. With just a quick glance, this species can sometimes appear green (the dark blue-black of the background combined with the yellow spots: yellow and blue makes green!).

Juveniles of the species look similar to the adults, but the yellow spots create more of a chain pattern.

This species is sometimes called a Flecked Snake or Salt-n-Pepper Snake.


This species can be found in a variety of habitats, from heavy woodland, to open prairie, to lowlands. This species is often uncovered from common hiding places: flat rocks, old pieces of tin, debris in old junk piles, wood piles.

Habits and Life History

This species emerges from hibernation fairly early in the spring (usually mid- to late March). It can be seen basking in warm, sunny spots or out foraging for its first meal of the year. Shortly after this, males actively seek females. Breeding takes place in the spring.

The remainder of the summer is spent foraging for prey or hiding; occasionally basking. Gravid females will lay their eggs toward the end of summer; hatching takes place in the fall.

As long as the temperature is warm enough, this species will remain active. As soon as temperatures drop, this species will slip into a rock crevice or animal burrow to hibernate until next spring.

Prey and Hunting Techniques

This species eats a variety of prey: small mammals (mice, rats, etc.), lizards, and other snakes. Although not known to be an especially good climber, smaller birds and their eggs would also very likely be eaten.

This species is well-known for its tendency to eat other snakes, including venomous species; thus "kingsnake". They are even known to consume smaller individuals of their own kind! However, if given a chance, they would probably just as well prefer a meal of mouse.

This species is an active forager. They will catch the scent of potential prey and follow it out like a hound dog (but, of course, relying primarily on the tongue rather than nose). Prey, when found, is seized and constricted. If the prey happens to a venomous snake, sometimes Kingsnakes will receive a bite, but show a certain amount of immunity to the venom.

In captivity, individuals that are usually docile can become quite aggressive as soon as the scent of food is in the air. It really is amazing to see the personality change in these snakes! I've even had a Kingsnake try to "eat my finger" when it caught the scent of another snake on my was a snake that had NEVER bitten me before.

Temperament and Defense

The temperament of this species varies greatly, but is generally gentle if handled carefully and given a chance to tame down. Occasionally, an individual will be relatively "wild" and never seems to be completely calm.

In defense, this species will bite, poop, and emit a foul-smelling musk.


This species is one of the more common larger snakes in Arkansas. Many people recognize it as a "Kingsnake" and will not kill it, even if they would immediately kill any other snake.

State Distribution and Abundance

This species has not been confirmed for Arkansas.


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  • Behler, J. L., and F. W. King. 1979 (1987). The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. 3rd ed. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 743 pp.
  • Conant, R., and J. T. Collins. 1998. A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. 3rd ed., Expanded. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston. 616 pp.
  • Irwin, K. J. 2004. Arkansas Snake Guide. Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Pocket Guide. 50 pp.
  • Trauth, S. E., H. W. Robison, and M. V. Plummer. 2004. Amphibians and Reptiles of Arkansas. University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville. 421 pp.


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Page last modified on January 02, 2016, at 07:18 PM