Common Kingsnake as a Pet

Lampropeltis getula

Kingsnake on rocks

A healthy kingsnake has a firm, uniform body and glossy skin. Choose only one bred legally in captivity, not one captured illegally in the wild.

The distinctively patterned and colored common kingsnake makes a novel and interesting pet, one that holds a lot of lessons about reptiles. In spite of a predatory nature in the wild and smelly defensive strategies under threat, the snake responds well to interactions with humans, "being good natured and gentle," according to Gary Ruplinger, writing for the Boatips.com Internet site.

Selecting a Common Kingsnake

In selecting a common kingsnake for a pet, you should choose one bred legally in captivity, not one captured illegally in the wild.

Realize that the snake may grow to several feet in length, and will require some replication of its natural habitat. It may live for 20 years.

As Lianne McLeod, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, said in "Kingsnakes and Milksnakes: Choosing a Snake," you should select a snake with:

  • A firm and uniform body with smooth movement, free of tremors
  • A glossy skin, free of sores and parasites (especially mites)
  • No open-mouth gasping for breath
  • Mouth interior uniformly pink, free of mouth rot
  • Clear eyes, free of discharge
  • Clean vent, free of swelling

Housing

Kingsnakes are "escape artists," said Melissa Kaplan in her Herp Care Collecting Internet site, "Kingsnakes and Milksnakes," so for an adult, you will likely need a 60-gallon enclosure with high sides and a tight fitting and locking top.

You can "furnish" your snake's enclosure with rocks and branches to resemble its native habitat, and you will need to install a temperature control system which will provide a temperature gradient ranging from 76 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Use thermometers to monitor the temperature. Keep on the enclosure floor a bowl of fresh water, which will meet your snake's needs for humidity and occasional soaks (especially just prior to a shed).

You can cover the bottom of its enclosure with butcher paper, paper towels, outdoor carpeting, clean sand, or various other floorings.

Diet

If you have acquired a captive-born hatchling, you can probably feed it a pre-killed "pinky" mouse every few days. As it grows, feed it pre-killed adolescent mice every few days. When it reaches adulthood, usually within about three years, feed it a pre-killed adult mouse once or twice a week, depending on your snake's size and condition.

Common Questions About Kingsnakes as Pets

How do I know a common kingsnake if I see one?

Do kingsnakes bite?

Do kingnsnakes prey on poisonous snakes?

Video on Kingsnakes

Care

You should handle your snake gently enough to establish trust and confidence but firmly enough to prevent escape. (A snake lost in the house can be disconcerting. My wife can verify that.) If your snake coils around your arm, grasp its tail end to unwind it. If you grasp its head, you will find it much more difficult to unwind.

Use disinfectants to clean your snake's enclosure, furnishings, waterbowl and flooring. Keep your snake's supplies separate from those you have for other pets.

Prior to acquiring a common kingsnake as a pet, do some research about the requirements. You can assure that you will have, not only a novel and interesting pet, but a healthy and educational one as well.

By Jay W. Sharp

 

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