Other common names
Apalachicola King Snake
Most adult Apalachicola kingsnakes are about 36-48 inches (90-122 cm) in total length. These snakes are variable in coloration and distinguished from all other kingsnakes by their overall light body coloration, having either narrow or wide crossbands with considerably lightened color between the bands, or being non-banded (striped or patternless). Banded individuals have fewer than 26 yellowish and usually wide crossbands down the back. The neck is indistinct, and the scales are smooth and shiny. Banded juveniles are mostly black with white or yellowish crossbands down the body. Striped and patternless juveniles are mostly black and lack light crossbands.
Range in Florida
Apalachicola kingsnakes occur in the eastern and central Florida Panhandle, primarily in the eastern Apalachicola lowlands south of Telogia Creek. However, Apalachicola kingsnakes are known to interbreed with eastern kingsnakes (Lampropeltis getula) throughout areas surrounding this range
Assessment of risk to people and pets
Non-venomous Apalachicola kingsnakes are not dangerous to people or pets, but they occasionally bite to defend themselves. These snakes avoid direct contact with people and pets. Virtually all bites occur when people intentionally bother the snakes.
Comparison with other species
Florida kingsnake (Lampropeltis floridana) Florida kingsnakes have more than 34 light crossbands on the body, lightening of the black scales between crossbands, a degenerate lateral chain-like pattern, and usually 23 scale rows at midbody.
Eastern kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula) Eastern kingsnakes have 19-32 light crossbands on the body, no lightening of the black scales between crossbands, a chain-like pattern along the sides of the body, and usually 21 scale rows at midbody.
Most adult Apalachicola kingsnakes are about 36-48 inches (90-122 cm) in total length, with a record length recorded of 82 inches (208.3 cm). These snakes are variable in coloration and distinguished from all other kingsnakes by their overall light body coloration, having either narrow or wide crossbands with considerably lightened color between the bands, or being non-banded (striped or patternless). Combinations of these basic patterns also occur regularly in the wild. The belly pattern is variable, being either bicolored, loose checkerboard with interspersed light and dark scales, or mostly dark. Banded individuals have fewer than 26 yellowish and usually wide (up to the entire body length) crossbands down the back. The scales between the light crossbands lighten with age. Starting as black, they develop lightening on the anterior 1/2 to 3/4 of each scale, which varies from about 25-100% of the intensity of the light crossbands in the adult stage. Adults that possess interbands (area between bands) the same intensity of the light crossbands appear to be non-banded (striped or patternless). The scales are smooth and shiny, and there are usually 21 scale rows at midbody. The neck is indistinct, and the pupil is round. Banded juveniles are mostly black with white or yellowish crossbands down the body. Striped and patternless juveniles are mostly black and lack light crossbands.
Apalachicola kingsnakes are found in scrub, pinelands, hardwood hammocks, cypress strands, prairies, marshes, estuaries, and along the edges of streams and canals. These snakes remain uncommon throughout their range, but they are occasionally found in suburban neighborhoods where development encroaches into favorable habitats.
When approached, Apalachicola kingsnakes will typically flee for shelter. However, if they are cornered, they may strike at the attacker and rapidly vibrate the tip of the tail, which produces a buzzing sound. If grabbed or pinned, they may bite and chew while releasing a foul-smelling musk from a pair of glands in the base of the tail. Nonetheless, these snakes are not aggressive and they typically seldom bite.
Apalachicola kingsnakes have a broad diet that includes small mammals, birds and their eggs, amphibians, lizards, turtles and their eggs, and other snakes, including venomous snakes and other kingsnakes. Their preferred prey appears to be reptiles and their eggs. Larger prey are typically killed by constriction, whereas smaller prey and eggs are swallowed immediately.
In Florida, females lay around 3-30 white eggs, which typically hatch between June and September. The eggs are often laid in rotting logs, rock crevices, loose debris, or underground in mammal burrows.
Up until 2016, Apalachicola kingsnakes were considered a subspecies of the eastern kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula). The decision to elevate this previous subspecies to a distinct species appears to be widely but not universally accepted.
Apalachicola kingsnakes often interbreed with eastern kingsnakes (Lampropeltis getula) in parts of the Florida Panhandle surrounding the eastern Apalachicola lowlands north of Telogia Creek. The resulting hybrids often have varying intermediate color patterns between the two species.
Apalachicola kingsnakes consume many species of venomous snakes and appear to be immune to their venom. They can even consume snakes longer than themselves by folding the prey over itself in their stomachs as it is being swallowed.
Numbers of Apalachicola kingsnakes have declined dramatically over the past several decades. Reasons for the declines appear to be due to the combined effects of habitat loss and fragmentation, road mortality, pollution, introduced red fire ants, and overcollection for the pet trade.
County data coming soon.
If you have a new or interesting observation for this species, please email the herpetology staff at the Florida Museum.
Ernst, C.H. and E.M. Ernst. 2003. Snakes of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC. 668 pp.
Krysko, K.L., K.M. Enge, and P.E. Moler. 2019. Amphibians and Reptiles of Florida. University of Florida Press, Gainesville, Florida. 706 pp.
Krysko, K.L., L.P. Nuñez, C.E. Newman, and B.W. Bowen. 2016. Phylogenetics of kingsnakes, Lampropeltis getula complex (Serpentes: Colubridae), in eastern North America. Journal of Heredity 108: 1-13.
Powell, R., R. Conant, and J.T. Collins. 2016. Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. Fourth edition. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, Boston and New York. xiv + 494 pp.
Pyron, R.A. and F.T. Burbrink. 2009. Systematics of the Common Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula; Serpentes: Colubridae) and the burden of heritage in taxonomy. Zootaxa 2241: 22-32.
Share your observations
You can help scientists better understand the biology and distribution of this species by sharing your observations. Send photos or videos of interesting observations, along with associated information, by emailing the herpetology staff at the Florida Museum for documentation in the Museum’s Herpetology Master Database. You can also post your observations on iNaturalist.
Additional helpful information
Do you have snakes around your house? Learn how to safely co-exist with snakes.
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