Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The King of Snakes

Yesterday, as we were finishing our Project PROHTO survey around the boardwalk at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest, we caught site of an Eastern Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula getula) near the edge of the swamp.  The Eastern Kingsnake, which includes the subspecies L. g. getula, L. g. nigra, and L. g. holbrooki, has one of the largest geographic ranges of any North American snake.  They are at home in a wide variety of habitats and though strongly terrestrial, they can often be found near aquatic habitats.

The Eastern Kingsnake is quite secretive even though it is active during the day.  Although this snake's overall population is sufficient to not warrant protection, isolated populations have been diminishing or have disappeared.  As with many flora and fauna species, habitat loss is likely a factor.  Introduced species such as fire ants or disease may also be taking a toll on the Eastern Kingsnake population.

Although Eastern Kingsnakes will eat lizards, rodents, and turtle eggs, they also eat other species of snakes.  Kingsnakes are immune to the venom of pit vipers, so they have no issues with eating copperheads, cottonmouths, or rattlesnakes.  If you are not a fan of snakes in general, you should be a fan of the snake-eating Eastern Kingsnake!

Video by Mark Musselman

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