The King of all Snakes: Kingsnakes

Kingsnakes are docile snakes that can be found in almost all parts of the US. Kingsnakes use constriction to kill their prey and tend to be opportunistic when it comes to their diet. They will eat other snakes, including venomous snakes. Kingsnakes will also eat lizards, rodents, birds, and eggs; basically, anything they can overpower with their constricting coils. The common kingsnake is known to be immune to the venom of other snakes that live in their natural habit, but it is not necessarily immune to the venom of snakes from different locations than where it is usually found.

Kingsnakes are appropriately named since they can eat other species of snakes and no other snake species pose a real threat to them. Besides being at the top of the snake food chain, the majority of kingsnakes have quite vibrant patterns on their skins. Some species of kingsnakes, such as the scarlet kingsnake, Mexican milk snake, and red milk snake, have coloration and patterning that can cause them to be confused with the highly venomous coral snakes. A common rhyme to help people distinguish between the coral snake and its nonvenomous look-alikes in the United States is, “Red by black, friend of Jack. Red by yellow, kill a fellow.” Meaning if there is a red band by a black band it is a nonvenomous snake species, but if it has a red band by a yellow band it is a venomous snake species and should be avoided.

Scientists have figured out how kingsnakes are able to be bitten by venomous snakes and survive. They are equipped with an enzyme the breaks down the venom from poisonous snakes, minimizing the damage it suffers from bites. This enables them to eat rattlesnakes, copperheads, cottonmouths, and even coral snakes. Kingsnakes typically hunt during the day, especially around sunrise and sunset, or through cool summer nights. Even when food is scarce, this rare ability allows these snakes to eat, and thrive, on a species that most other animals cannot eat.

Even though they are the kings of the snakes, kingsnakes suffer predation from birds, such as hawks and roadrunners; from mammals, such as badgers and raccoons; and from reptiles, such as other kingsnakes. Humans are also a large threat to kingsnakes as they often mistake the harmless snake for a venomous snake and are unjustly killed. Although they are non-poisonous, they do have several defenses. When they feel threatened they will hiss angrily at an attacker, but this is usually just a bluff. They will also vibrate their tail amidst dry leaves to mimic a rattlesnake’s rattle or roll into a ball and play dead. They can also discharge a foul smelling musk to discourage attackers or if picked up they will often smear fecal matter on the enemy. When they are really mad they will sometimes strike and bite, but since they are non-venomous this is not a real threat.

Kingsnakes make great pets, since in the wild they are often very docile and will allow you to pick them up. They are very low maintenance and only have to be fed periodically, once every two weeks in the summer and once a month in the winter. In captivity, kingsnakes usually eat either frozen, or alive, mice or rats. They are good-natured and gentle and interact very well with humans.

All in all kingsnakes are a very unique species of snake that have many interesting attributes, such as color and dietary habits. They are one of the easiest and nicest pets and make the world a better place by eating rodents and dangerous, venomous snake species.

Works Cited

About Mr. Mohn

Biology Teacher

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