Other common names
Florida King Snake
Most adult Florida Kingsnakes are about 36-48 inches (90-122 cm) in total length. These snakes are variable in coloration from brown to yellow. They have more than 40 yellowish crossbands down the back and a degenerate chain-like pattern along the sides. The scales between the crossbands lighten with age. The neck is indistinct. The scales are smooth and shiny. Juveniles are mostly black with white or yellowish crossbands down the body.
Range in Florida
Florida Kingsnakes are found throughout the Florida peninsula south of a line from Taylor County to Duval County, and they are known from Key Largo in the Florida Keys. However, Florida Kingsnakes are known to interbreed with Eastern Kingsnakes (Lampropeltis getula) throughout large portions of their northern range.
Assessment of risk to people and pets
Non-venomous. Florida 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
Apalachicola Kingsnake (Lampropeltis meansi) Non-venomous Apalachicola Kingsnakes have either fewer than 26 wide crossbands with considerably lightened color between the crossbands or they are non-banded (striped or patternless). They typically have 21 scale rows at midbody.
Eastern Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula) Non-venomous Eastern Kingsnakes have 19-32 light crossbands on the body, no lightening of the scales between crossbands, a chain-like pattern along the sides of the body, and usually 21 scale rows at midbody.
Most adult Florida Kingsnakes are about 36-48 inches (90-122 cm) in total length, with a record length recorded of 69.4 inches (176.3 cm). These snakes are variable in coloration from brown to yellow. They have more than 40 yellowish crossbands down the back and a degenerate chain-like pattern along the sides. The scales between the crossbands lighten with age, starting as black and often lightening until they become the same light color as the crossbands. The belly has a checkerboard pattern of light and dark squares. The neck is indistinct, and the pupil is round. The scales are smooth and shiny, and there are usually 23 scale rows at midbody. Juveniles are mostly black with white or yellowish crossbands down the body.
Florida Kingsnakes are found in pinelands, hardwood hammocks, cypress strands, prairies, marshes, estuaries, sugar cane plantations, stands of melaleuca, and along drainage canals. These snakes remain uncommon throughout their range, but they are occasionally found in suburban neighborhoods where development encroaches into favorable habitats.
When approached, Florida 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.
Florida 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 appear 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 (usually fewer than 12) 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.
No subspecies are currently recognized in Florida.
Up until 2016, Florida 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.
Florida Kingsnakes often interbreed with Eastern Kingsnakes (Lampropeltis getula) in parts of the Florida peninsula roughly north of a line from Pinellas County to Flagler County. The resulting hybrids often have varying intermediate color patterns between the two species.
Florida 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 Florida Kingsnakes in Florida 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.
Still have questions about snakes or identifications? Feel free to email the herpetology staff at the Florida Museum with your questions or feedback on this profile.
Banner photo courtesy of Todd Pierson. Please credit any photographers on the page and see our copyright policy.