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The King Snake, America's Pet Snake That Eats Venomous Snakes!

The King Snake

The King snake is the KING of snakes in most every domain or region in which they live, and what that means is that they EAT other snakes, and other things that we humans tend to find undesirable, especially high on the "undesirable" list of King Snake snack foods are rodents such as rats and mice. If eating other snakes - venomous snakes - wasn't enough to endear you to the King snake, then surely eating rats and mice should be.

Years ago my brother ran a BBQ restaurant outside of Tyler, Texas; and he was a new hire at the time for the restaurant owner, and was at the woodpile behind the restaurant loading some logs for the fire. He saw a huge snake, and killed it. Our Dad's idea had always been that the only good snake was a dead one. The owner of the BBQ restaurant, however, was very unhappy. He'd paid $35.00 for that King snake - to keep the rats and mice out of his wood pile.

The King Snake - This Snake Is Your FRIEND!


The King Snake

Another little story: Years ago I lived further in the sticks than I do now, in a little bitty rural Texas community called Gray's Prairie. I was living in someone's RV, and on their property that they shared with their in laws, besides the child of their own, the people had adopted FIVE children. Their family produced lots of garbage, and as it was legal, they would often burn a large portion of it, and had been doing so for a great many years on the family's large property.

I'm ever the scrap metal scavenger, and so I was doing a bit of digging for metals - tax free income that, and when I can NOT pay income taxes, that inevitably go towards the murders of persons in far away places, I do that for it's moral superiority. On top of a large and old mound that had been a burn pile in the past, I was gathering aluminium cans when I got that peculiar feeling that one sometimes gets when he realizes that he's not alone. Soon, beneath me, the largest snake I'd ever seen emerged from the mound. I'll not forget the rustling of the leaves as it slithered on by, disturbed as it was by my intrusion - a King Snake.

The Largest of the Eastern King Snakes that had ever been measured was Eight feet and Five inches long - but they could possibly grow larger than that. The Eastern King Snake and the Speckled King Snake are both found in my area of North East Texas. The snake that I encountered in the story above was the largest reptile that I'd ever seen. I did not feel fearful of the creature. I felt like I'd been sort of rude towards the thing - trespassing on his mound for aluminium cans.

A Texas Speckled King Snake - Lampropeltis getula holbrooki


King Snakes As Pets

The King Snake articles on Wikipedia are all found easiest from the general King Snake article, and from that web page - I'll provide the following quote:

Kingsnakes are commonly kept as pets, due to their ease of care. Kingsnakes are overall hardy and simple to care for. Their captive diet usually consists of appropriately sized rodents, prekilled. Giving live rodents is an illegal offense in some countries and may be bad for the snake's health, as live rodents are capable of delivering powerful bites, potentially injuring the snake. Kingsnakes are generally docile, curious and gentle.

I've probably got more opinions about politics than I do about snakes - but the concept of giving live rodents to a pet snake being illegal in some countries. . . .is disgusting. Male or female - snakes are predators, and to deny a predator it's prey is un natural - and THAT, my friends, is unhealthy. I could give fuck all to nothing about what laws are in any place that I'm at. Laws have never, EVER been anything more than tools of the powerful used to oppress the less so. Stay sovereign, my friends.

The Eastern King Snake - Lampropeltis getulas Is NOT A Water Moccasin


King Snakes - Constrictors.

The King Snake is a constrictor, and that means that it kills it's prey by coiling it's powerful, long, muscular body around things and choking them to death. Of course the exception to this is that the King Snakes will also eat eggs of most anything that lays them. You can't choke an egg, imagine the mess.

We here on the Shaw homestead raise chickens. . .um. . .I mean, My Dad raises chickens. Besides the occasional opossum, skunk, and raccoon that must meet a nasty shotgun fate for killing Dad's chickens - so too does the foolish and lazy King Snakes that get into the coops. While the Dad is always mystified by the cleverness of the four legged fiends that get inside his well protected hen houses - keeping a snake out is virtually impossible. It's also, and for the same reasons, virtually impossible to keep the wise snake IN the coops for execution.

As discussed above - King Snakes sometimes grow to be very large - so it goes without saying that a human infant and an 8ft. 5inch King Snake should probably not play together. If you need me to explain that to you further - then I can't do that - because you can't be helped. I'm NOT saying that I've ever heard of a King Snake consuming an infant Homo sapien, I'm just trying to exercise what I think of as common sense. My experience is that some persons don't have any, and I've got it in spades.

Lampropeltis elapsoides - The Scarlet King Snake Is NOT A Coral Snake


The Scarlet King Snake

"If red touches yellow, you're a dead fellow; if red touches black, you're all right, Jack"

The Colloquial wisdom in the rhyme above is dead on accurate. The Scarlet King Snake is harmless. The Coral Snake's bite will kill you in minutes. You could get bit by a Coral Snake in the ER of a large hospital - and still die. In any case, the red on a snake ought to tell you something, and that something is LEAVE IT ALONE. A King Snake is harmless, and a Coral Snake seriously doesn't want to bite you. The Scarlet King Snake is, besides being so colourful, rather smaller than the other King Snakes.

The Mole King Snake - NOT A Copperhead


King Snakes and Venomous Snakes

One of the points that I'm trying to make clear here is that for every venomous snake there is a King Snake that looks damned similar to it, but is harmless. King Snakes are always evolved in such a manner that they are IMMUNE to the venom of the venomous snakes in their regions. A King Snake, as stated before here, is THE KING Snake in it's region, and it proves that by EATING the venomous snakes in it's region when and if the occasion arises.

The Mole King Snake above looks an awful lot like a copperhead - but the Mole King Snake grows to larger sizes than any copperhead ever has. It makes you wonder - do they start to look like copperhead from eating so many copperheads? Some things make me go "hmmm....."

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The California King Snake - Lampropeltis getula californiae


Water Moccasin - NOT A King Snake. Note The Shape Of The Water Mocassin's Head.


The Tremendous Diversity Of King Snakes

The California King Snake isn't just for Californians - These snakes live in the South Western to Western United States, from Baja California to Oregon and Southern Utah to Western Arizona.

The Genus Lampropeltis has four species under it, and FORTY FIVE subspecies. Basically, King Snakes do a lot of interbreeding, and are found from coast to coast in the United States and Mexico.

The King Snake is NOT a Rat Snake - The Rat Snake is a different snake altogether, but that doesn't mean that the common yayhoo knows one from the other, and so King Snakes are often called Rat Snakes.

Also, the Milk Snake is a species or sub species of King Snake. The Taxonomy of these King Snakes is in no way a settled matter. According to Wikipedia it's highly debatable within the Biological community as to what the classifications of various and sundry King Snakes should be.

When I was five years old, or so, I was attending a church camp at Fort Parker State Park in Limestone County, Texas - and I found a snake. Of course I went and yelled for my Dad, but there was also another man there, and his name was John. Well, John asked me,

Was the snakes eyes round, or were they slanted?

Of course I didn't know if the snakes eyes were round or slanted, I was only excited about finding myself a snake. I probably wanted to keep it, or something. The man named John said,

Well, get down there and see if the snakes eyes are round or slanted! If they are round, then it's a good snake!

I don't think my Dad much agreed to that suggestion, as his thoughts were that if it's eyes were DEAD, then it was a good snake, and thus my brother's attitude and murder of a perfectly good King Snake that had been purchased for $35.00 to keep the rats out of the wood pile behind the BBQ restaurant.

An Albino King Snake



I think that the many varieties and colorful variations of these King Snakes is truly beautiful. I don't think that snakes are so beautiful, but when you consider that King Snakes eat coral snakes, rattlesnakes, copperheads, and water moccasin snakes - you can really SEE the beauty of the King Snakes in all of their trans coastal U.S. and Mexican varieties.

Factor in that they also eat rats and mice, and you've got yourself, if not a friend and house guest, at least a neighbor that is preferable to State Farm, if you know what I mean.

Killing a snake is just stupid unless one is venomous, and too close to your home, or (heaven forbid) inside of it. If a snake is of the non venomous variety, then don't kill it, . . .unless, of course, it's eating your chickens or their eggs.

Remember - if you kill a king snake, and then later on you are bitten by a rattlesnake and killed. It might actually be YOUR FAULT. The King Snake you killed was probably supposed to eat the rattlesnake that killed you - but you, ignorantly killing a King Snake, effed up the universe, and the universe didn't like it.

The Indigo Snake NOT a King Snake - It Is Criminal Offence To Kill Indigo Snakes


© 2011 Wesman Todd Shaw


Janice on July 29, 2017:

My daddy taught me that " red on yellow will kill a fellow". I've never forgotten that.

Christina Stewart from Sylacauga on September 17, 2016:

Today, my father-in-law and I watched a large king snake constrict a black racer and kill it. My dog and I actually walked up on him curled with movement in between. I thought it had a rodent or something in its grip.

I walked back to my father-in-law's shop where he was to take a look. He got closer than I and saw there were 2 snakes; king snake had one constricting it!!

I had no clue that these snakes did this; that is being predators towards other snakes. My sister-in-law thought it was only towards other venomous snakes; she had already met this guy out at our horse barn earlier in the week. He came out of the the ditch, crawled around, then went right back. He was very shiny, scaly black with yellow undertones.

We let him be. Snakes give me the creeps but if it takes having one to get rid of the copperheads, rattlesnakes, and others we've seen this summer, I can live with that. I've even thought to name him since he's been spotted around here more than once. (I added a photo to my profile, it isn't the best though. You can see his/her shiny black and yellow.)

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on January 06, 2016:

Thanks very very much, Wolf and Derek! That is the main thing I want folks to know, don't kill every snake you see, some are rather more beneficial to humans than some imagine!

Derek on September 11, 2015:

I love your page! Awesome work.

wolfpit411 on May 20, 2013:

Wish i could post a pic here. I had a beautiful 5 foot King take residence in my Z 71 Saturday and it took 2 hours to evict him and relocate to the corn shed. He is at this moment enjoying a healthy diet of corn fed mice. Also had a puppy disappear and the momma had 3 venomous snake bites a couple of days prior and hope the King will find the culprit and revenge the pup. Loved your read and look forward to more of your stories.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on February 20, 2012:

Curiad - it's those rattlesnakes that I never want to see!

I don't know - I could be wrong about them, I just imagine that they're very aggressive. The good thing about the rattlers is that you can hear them.

Water Moccasins are supposedly very aggressive, but I've found that isn't true. I've seen lots of those, and they've always wanted to either remain un noticed, or to get away from me - as they should!

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on February 20, 2012:

tammyswallow - THANK YOU VERY MUCH!!!!

Hey, snakes have feelings too!!! You wouldn't want to hurt a snakes feelings, would you? They might get angry!

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on February 20, 2012:

Vinaya Ghimire - your comment is FULL of interesting information!!!! If you haven't, then I think you should definitely write a hub about that!!!!

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on February 20, 2012:

Victoria Lynn - it's extremely unfortunate for the King Snakes of the world that they nearly always tend to resemble one of the same areas local venomous snakes.

I've no idea why that is, maybe they start to look like what they often eat?

hehehehe. I doubt that one, but the shape of the snakes head and knowing about the colouration of various snakes helps. It's really bad business to kill a king snake, they want to be your friend! I swear!

Curiad on February 20, 2012:

Great article Wesman! out here in the mountains of California we have several kinds of snakes. Lots of Rattlers here too.

Tammy from North Carolina on February 20, 2012:

Ahhhh... I love MOST of your animal hubs. Yikes. Not a fan of snakes! But this is still informative and well written.

Vinaya Ghimire from Nepal on February 20, 2012:

Serpent, or snake to be precise, is called Naga in Sanskrit language. And this imagery is widely used in Hindu Scriptures. From the time immemorial, Hindus are worshipping serpent. In Hindu calendar almost every deity has his or her own day, and even so for snakes in the day called Naga Panchami. On this day they propitiate serpent by praying and worshipping snake replicas and pictures.

This hub is very informative. The pictures are amazing.

Victoria Lynn from Arkansas, USA on February 20, 2012:

gosh, I hate snakes, but that was a great hub. Very informative, useful, awesome! Voted up. The pics were great, too, but I had to hurry by a couple of them that looked like they were ready to jump out at me. haha Great information and interesting to read. I feel better informed, but I'm still not going near anything that even resembles a snake. :-)

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on August 16, 2011:

Yeah - I filed a DMCA complaint with Google as soon as I figured out how to do that. My article was credited to me, which was nice - but it wasn't a "live" hyperlink, and that's what bothered me most about it.

Google e mailed me yesterday to tell me that it was removed.

SEO Pakistan on August 16, 2011:


Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on August 15, 2011:

He SEO Pakistan, I saw that!!!! Thanks for the heads up, friend! I'd take it as a compliment (that they are stealing my articles) - but it costs me money, so it's just theft.

Hed WEedmed!!!!!!!!!!!!!! King Snakes ARE our friends!! I promise!

wedmed from US on August 15, 2011:

I do not think these creatures are our friends.. they look scary to me

SEO Pakistan on August 14, 2011:

Your articles are stealing by some spamers on web...! be careful...!!

nice read...!!

be active or report...!!!

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on August 13, 2011:

Thank you very much, gilbertosena6!!!!!!!!!!

I did enjoy the way that this article . . .laid itself out with the color variations. I knew that that was going to be cool! Glad you enjoyed it!

gilbertosena6 from Kenya on August 13, 2011:

Those photos are just marvelous, to me only fangless snakes are fun. Thanks a lot.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on August 13, 2011:

Thanks Maxravi!!! I'm pretty interested in most critters - and snakes are some of the most interesting creatures.

Mostly because folks are scared of them, I think - But the King Snakes are really GOOD snakes to have around!

Ravi Singh from India on August 13, 2011:

I am very much interested in snakes, thanks for your info.keep posting.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on July 10, 2011:

Fallen Valkyrie - you are always too kind!

Obscure_Treasures, THANK YOU!

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on July 10, 2011:

Hey There, Randy - Then I need to peruse yon Hubs about those slithery critters that give me the terrors!

Obscure_Treasures from USA on July 09, 2011:

great hub....

Fallen Valkyrie on July 06, 2011:

I'd like to tell you more about bull snakes but uh...alls I know is they're brown and uh...look like rattlesnakes without the rattle. Maybe some awesome Texas dude will write a hub about them and fill in some more info...? ;-)

Randy Godwin from Southern Georgia on July 06, 2011:

Actually there are 2 species here in southern Georgia, WTS.

Most of my snake hubs show the "Canebrake Rattlesnake" as opposed to the "Eastern Diamondback", which used to be the dominant species here until about 15 years ago.

The boll weevil eradication program not only got rid of the pesky weevils, it killed many gopher tortoises which provided the burrows needed by the diamondbacks.

I've not observed a diamondback in this area for at least two decades. Plenty of canebrakes-a subspecies of the timber rattler- around here though!

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on July 06, 2011:

Rattlers. . . .weren't those children's toys at one point?

I'm so dumb. I'm always forgetting where you live, Georgia, right? Randy, . . .I'm also forever forgetting that there is a species of rattlesnake over there.

Years ago our local paper. . .well, the paper in Kemp, Texas - stated that a rattlesnake had been found. Hell, it should have been found dead. I know I never find live ones. . . .not that I find dead ones either, but I seriously hate rattlesnakes. . . .despite knowing that I should just avoid them.

Randy Godwin from Southern Georgia on July 06, 2011:

Enjoyed the hub, of course! The King is a fascinating creature which i encounter almost on a daily basis because of the many rattlesnakes in this area. Rated up!


Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on July 06, 2011:

datahound - I like that story, and there's something about the way that you stated it that was really cool :-D

datahound from USA on July 06, 2011:

Very good hub. I remember my uncle used to stop and bag king snakes when I was a kid. He would then release them in his garden to handle the rodents. You should know he took a drink now and again as well. Once he forgot about a snake he picked up in his 50's Chevy. My aunt found it wrapped around the springs under the front seat while cleaning. I don't think he ever forgot again.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on July 02, 2011:

Thank you, Christopher!!!


Five feet, he? That was a powerful creature. You'd think that I would know, but I don't - I wonder how old the five foot snake was? I suppose I should have found out how long these snakes live, and things like that. I'd probably vote for that king snake in an election. I'm positive that he was a moral superior to our Governor Good Hair Perry. Oh, I suppose your five foot king snake friend wasn't Texan - but next Governor's race, I'll scribble "Christopher Anton" on the ballot down here just the same.

Christopher Antony Meade from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom on July 02, 2011:

That certainly ticked all the boxes for me. I once handled a king snake. He belonged to my friend's brother.

I thought he was lovely. He was about five ft long. The snake that is; not the friend, or the friend's brother.

Good Hub Wesman. I really enjoyed reading it.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on July 01, 2011:

Thanks Fiddleman!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Glad you recognized it for what it was!

A man always needs one of those things that Janitors use to pick up trash, even were it a copper, one could pick it up and take it to the field, or something.

Fiddleman on July 01, 2011:

Wes we were picking pole beans one summer, Dades, and the first picking is always low. My sister in law was all squatted down picking with both hand bunches of pole beans. I was in the row next to hers and all of a sudden she screamed "Snake!!" I thought she'd been bit and pulled the vines apart afraid of what I might see. Turns out it was a harmless King snake that had slivered between her legs and frightened her. First glance it looked like a copperhead. Great hub, good pictures too.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on July 01, 2011:

Howdy Lauryallan!!! All king snakes are virtually harmless. I kinda sorta have a hard time finding the venomous ones purty - but the King's look, to me, like barney the purple dino compared to the pit vipers!

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on July 01, 2011:

Howdy agvulpes !!!! Sounds like Australia is getting sort of ridiculous with the legislation to me.

You guys got the most dangerous snakes in the world, all n all!

Only the U.S. Coral snake is comparable to Australian snakes, and the Coral snake . . . .is the most un aggressive critter out there. . . .

I 'spose the rattlers that we've got. . .are comparable, but I think most live if they get to a hospital in time after a rattler bite.

Lauryallan on July 01, 2011:

I am always amazed at how some of the most deadly species on this planet are also some of the most beautiful.

Peter from Australia on July 01, 2011:

Great Hub about snakes, I can't say that I would ever want one as a pet though! I loved the story about your 'brother', $35 you say Hmm... lol

If my memory serves me correct I believe that in Australia ALL snakes are protected by law and must be relocated and not killed !

Rate up !

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on June 30, 2011:

THANK YOU SUE SWAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I just felt sort of good about writing today, and I think it . . .turned out well, this article. :-D

Sueswan on June 30, 2011:

Not only was this hub interesting and very informative, it was damn funny. You have common sense and humour in spades. Voted up all the way. :-)

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on June 30, 2011:

Sychophantastic - super appreciated, super understood, super agreed, and super true!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SUPER APPRECIATED!!!

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on June 30, 2011:

Dusty, You're a MAD MAN! You are MAD my man! You might be nuts, and I'd not bust a nut around you - but I'd eats me some snake fajitas, or snake bar be cue!

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on June 30, 2011:

My Favourite Fallen Valkyrie !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I wanna learn 'bout that BULL SNAKE yous been a' tellin' me 'bout. that thingo that looks n' like n' THAR RATTLER!

I think it's bad luck to kill any critter that wasn't meanin' no harm, or invadin' the home place!

I don't know 'bout em' knowin' my devious to perverted intentions bout things - but I likes the idea!

50 Caliber from Arizona on June 30, 2011:

Wesman, danged old coral snake has such a small head it would have to get ou between the fingers or nostril, earlobe etc.

A 6 or 7 pound rattler cleaned and skinned and de-boned breaded and baked or I like KC Masterpiece honey teriyaki with sesame seeds marinade and grilled is pretty tasty stuff cooked low and slow with the skeletal bones left in place and as it gets tender you can pull 'em out and a tortilla wrap with some cheese right off the grill is my favorite. I crock pot them to pieces and get the bones out and make chili and take it to a potluck them fat Baptists don't cull anything. They ask I tell them and they say "no really?" I just laugh and tell them it's a secret. dust

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on June 30, 2011:

DUSTY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'd eat me some snake fajitas if'n I had the chance!!!! Hell to the yeah!

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on June 30, 2011:

THANKS TOM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If I can't tell a story, the I ain't talking about it!

I've never, EVER seen either a Coral Snake or a Scarlet King Snake - chances are that if I see a snake with red on it - I'll be gone before I ever even computed any sort of colour connectivity! I'll be out this bitch!

50 Caliber from Arizona on June 30, 2011:

Wesman, part two or a trailer here yee haw, dust

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on June 30, 2011:


Evelyn Anne on June 30, 2011:

Good writing Todd, and great stories! I enjoyed this hub very much.

Lorenzo C on June 30, 2011:

Excellent Write, snakes are darn near amazing

Sychophantastic from Texas on June 30, 2011:

This was super interesting. I like snakes, but am not sure I'd test myself trying to get too close to differentiate a King snake from its venemous friends.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on June 30, 2011:

Tex Shelters - Is THE MAN when it comes to Political Satire, Tex, I admire you, fella!

Fallen Valkyrie on June 30, 2011:

You're probably the only person on the planet that can make me read snake articles, I swear. Good information to have & I'll try to remember the quote. It probably won't matter because my only thought tends to be RUN AWAY! when I encounter any and all snakes. I'd be lucky to notice if it were green or brown and to tell you what shape the eyes were? HA!

I grew up hearing that the natives here believed it was bad luck to kill a rattle snake and that rattlers knew if your intention was good or bad and reacted accordingly. If King's are as chill and mellow as you're saying, then I wonder if they also react to encounters based on feeling your intentions? Like the snake might've known you were an accidental intruder not an invader and so just went on his way instead of trying to spook you?

50 Caliber from Arizona on June 30, 2011:

I kill snakes and am far from ignorant, I eat 'em and sell the skins heads and rattles and feed Lynda Love Lace who lives by the well. Growing a record breaking King Snake, duh, 50

justom from 41042 on June 30, 2011:

Great hub Todd, like I said on FB I never heard the red touches yellow saying. As for snakes we have an understanding and I hope that continues to work for me :-P Again, repeating myself, you can take what could be a boring story and put that WTS touch on it to make it more interesting!!!

50 Caliber from Arizona on June 30, 2011:

Wesman, right on! these snakes are great and When I'm snake hunting for rattlers I catch and bring home the Kings and set them free here, valuable warriors. Check your mail box!, dust

Tex Shelters on June 30, 2011:

Great read, and I love the photos. They remind me of my friends snakes.

People that kill snakes are ignorant. Indiana Jones could use to read your post.


Tex Shelters

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