Other common names
Mole King Snake
Most adult northern mole kingsnakes are about 30-42 inches (76-107 cm) in total length. Adults are gray, brown, or orangish, with typically around 55 black-bordered reddish-brown blotches down the body and tail. Older individuals may be almost solid brown. The neck is indistinct, and there is sometimes a dark line through the eye. Juveniles are similar in appearance to adults but more vivid and with a silvery ground color.
Range in Florida
Northern mole kingsnakes are found in the Panhandle east to Franklin and Liberty counties.
Assessment of risk to people and pets
Non-venomous. Northern mole kingsnakes are not dangerous to people or pets, but they may bite to defend themselves. These highly secretive snakes avoid direct contact with people and pets. Virtually all bites occur when people intentionally bother the snakes.
Comparison with other species
Red Cornsnake (Pantherophis guttatus) Non-venomous Eastern cornsnakes have a distinct neck, a light spear-shaped pattern on the back of the head and neck, and a black and white checkerboard-patterned belly.
South Florida Mole Kingsnake (Lampropeltis occipitolineata) Non-venomous South Florida Mole kingsnakes are only found in parts of central Florida. This species has over 75 small, dark blotches down the back, 21 midbody scale rows or fewer, and a network of dark lines on the back of the head.
Most adult northern mole kingsnakes are about 30-42 inches (76-107 cm) in total length. Adults are gray, brown, orange, or some combination of these with 71 or fewer (typically around 55) black-bordered reddish-brown blotches down the body and tail. There are smaller reddish-brown blotches on the sides between the larger mid-dorsal blotches. Older individuals may be almost solid brown. The belly is gray, yellow, pinkish, or clouded brown with mottling. The neck is indistinct, and there is sometimes a dark line through the eye. The scales are smooth, and there are 21-23 scale rows at midbody. The pupil is round. Juveniles are similar in appearance to adults but more vivid and with a silvery ground color.
Northern mole kingsnakes are known to occupy pinelands, hardwood hammocks, sandhills, prairies, and agricultural fields. Areas preferred by these snakes appear to have open canopies and abundant groundcover. These highly secretive snakes are primarily burrowers and are rarely seen in suburban neighborhoods.
If grabbed or pinned, northern mole kingsnakes may bite the attacker while jerking and twitching the body and head. They may also rapidly vibrate the tail while releasing foul-smelling musk from glands within the base of the tail. Nonetheless, these snakes are not aggressive, and striking is only used in defense as a last resort.
Northern mole kingsnakes commonly feed on lizards, snakes, and small mammals. Prey are typically killed by constriction.
Little is known of the reproductive biology of this species in Florida. But data from populations outside of Florida along with limited data from Florida suggest that females lay around 3-16 eggs, which hatch between July and August. The eggs are often laid in underground burrows, loose soil, and piles of debris.
Up until 2016, both species of mole kingsnake in Florida (Lampropeltis rhombomaculata and L. occipitolineata) were considered subspecies of Lampropeltis calligaster. The decision to elevate the subspecies to a distinct species appears to be mostly but not universally accepted.
Northern mole kingsnakes are primarily nocturnal (active at night) and have been found under boards and logs, around plowed fields, and crossing roads at night.
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.
McKelvy, A.D. and F.T. Burbrink. 2016. Ecological divergence in the yellow-bellied kingsnake (Lampropeltis calligaster) at two North American biodiversity hotspots. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 106: 61-72.
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.
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.