Virginia.gov

eastern black kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula nigra)

Photos

Distribution Map

Distribution Map

Characteristics

This subspecies is mostly black on the back, lacking the chainlike pattern of white to yellow that is found in the subspecies of eastern kingsnake. Young individuals of this subspecies may display a faint pattern on the back. The belly may have yellowish spots or irregular patches and is darker posteriorly. It is a large, stout snake that grows to lengths of 36-45 in. (90-114 cm). The only other black snakes in Virginia are the northern black racer, Coluber constrictor, and the black rat snake, Elaphe obsoleta. Neither of these species has white or yellow crossbars or spotting on the head and belly. Mating takes place in the spring, 10-24 eggs are laid in June/July, and the eggs hatch in August/September. Kingsnakes are noted for vibrating their tails when disturbed and for discharging musk from glands at the base of the tail when picked up. These snakes are immune to poisonous snake venom and will eat venomous snakes when given a chance. They are preyed upon by raccoons, opossums, and skunks.

Distribution

This snake has been found in only 3 counties in the Tennessee River drainage of southwest Virginia. This species is found in a variety of habitats, but seems to prefer moist areas near swamps, marshes, along stream banks and lakes. It is also found on rocky hillsides, pastures, near streams and thickets and often under logs, boards, rotten stumps, or in burrows.

Foods

The black kingsnake eats garter and water snakes, skinks, reptile eggs, rodents, birds and their eggs, frogs, and some insects. Kingsnakes are widely known as predators of other snakes, including venomous species.

More Information

For more information, please visit the Virginia Fish & Wildlife Information Service (direct link to species booklet).