Kingsnakes are all members of the genus Lampropeltis. There are dozens of species and subspecies that can be found from southeastern Canada down to Ecuador.
The name of the snake refers to the fact that they eat other snakes.
They are important predators of venomous snakes like rattlesnakes. Some members of the genus are referred to as milksnakes.
These snakes were named for the old myth that they stole milk from livestock. Despite the name, they are also considered kingsnakes and share a similar diet and habits.
Georgia has a number of king snake species found within its borders. This list will teach you about them and where in the state they can be found.
1. Eastern King snake
The eastern kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula getula) is also known as the chain kingsnake.
They are black in color with yellow- or white-toned markings. These can look like chains, which gives the snake its other name.
The head tends to blend into the body and they have large eyes with a round pupil. They are incredibly common in Georgia and can be found virtually everywhere in the state.
If you run into a dark snake, you most likely found a chain kingsnake. They can be found in a number of habitats from forests to farmland.
They tend to prefer to stay close to water. They spend most of their time under cover such as logs and rocks, which makes them a rare sight.
They eat rodents, birds, turtle eggs, lizards, and other snake species. You may find them under cover, so be careful while moving rocks or other ground covers.
Since they eat rodents and many other prey items, if you attract these prey animals the snakes will likely show up. They are not venomous, but they are willing to bite if they feel threatened.
This species tends to stay around 3-4 feet long. You may see longer animals though, so don’t use size as your sole identifier for species.
Individual snakes can vary. Some animals may also have recessive traits that make them look a bit different from other snakes of the same species.
2. Prairie King snake
The prairie kingsnake (Lampropeltis calligaster calligaster) is typically found in the northern portions of the state. They are also called the yellow-bellied kingsnake.
They tend to get slightly over 3 feet and not much longer as adults, but some animals can be over 4 feet. They are frequently mistaken for rat snakes that share their range.
They tend to be brown or greenish with darker markings along the back. Their head is not distinct from the body and they have large eyes.
They prefer to eat rodents and lizards over snakes.
They tend to be found in open grasslands. They will hide in logs and under rocks, so be careful. They are very likely to bite if frightened. While they are not venomous, an adult can draw blood.
3. Mole King snake
The mole king snake (Lampropeltis calligaster rhombomaculata) is related to the prairie kingsnake.
These snakes can be found over much of the state. They are named for their habit of staying underground.
This means they are a rare sight even though they are so common. They get up to 40 inches on average. They tend to be a light brown with darker patterning down the back.
These snakes are commonly found in habitats other snakes can’t tolerate.
This includes suburban and agricultural areas. They eat mainly rodents, which means they are great to have around. While you may not see them above ground, be careful if you are digging since one may be living nearby.
4. Scarlet Kingsnake
The scarlet kingsnake (Lampropeltis elapsoides) is also referred to as the scarlet milkshake.
They were originally considered to be Lampropeltis triangulum elapsoides but it was determined by a genetic study that these snakes are a separate species entirely.
They are coral snake mimics. This means that they have bands of red, black, and yellow over the body.
The fastest way to tell these snakes apart from a dangerous coral snake is that they have a red face.
True coral snakes native to Georgia have a black head typically. This species rarely exceeds 20 inches long, making them the smallest adult kingsnake.
They are typically found hiding under logs or debris but have been known to climb trees. They will live in a wide range of habitats but typically avoid urban areas.
They eat rodents, lizards, and similar prey. These little snakes are very likely to bite if handled, so avoid doing so.
5. Eastern Milk Snake
The eastern milk snake (Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum) is typically only found in the far north of the state. They are easily confused with the scarlet kingsnake since they can have similar looks.
They are typically only 2-3 feet in length.
They are typically a gray with red saddles or bands bordered in black. Some localities have much more obvious banding to make them proper coral snake mimics.
They eat mostly rodents, but will also prey on other snakes and reptiles. Like other kingsnakes, they prefer habitats with cover. Be careful moving logs or rocks since you may disturb one.
They will bite, but many may prefer to produce a foul-smelling musk or feces if handled.
6. Black King snake
The black kingsnake (Lampropeltis nigra) is only found in the northwest of the state.
They are a rare sight and easily confused with chain kingsnakes.
Black kingsnakes are typically a solid black with small yellow or cream speckles along the back. The speckles are very widely spaced on the back, but are more numerous on the sides.
The belly is black and cream or yellow checker. They tend to grow between 3 and 4 feet long, but some animals can get up to 6 feet long.
They live in numerous habitats including debris piles, abandoned farms, floodplains, and wooded areas. They will eat nearly anything, but are know for consuming snakes.
This can include garter snakes, rattlesnakes, and even other kingsnakes.
7. Hybrids and Non-Natives
Many of the species of kingsnake can interbreed. This can happen in areas where their range overlaps.
This leads to snakes with mixed appearances and size. It was once believed that the scarlet kingsnake and the eastern milk snake produced an integrated where their ranges overlapped, but this is more likely to be a locality.
If you see a very unusual kingsnake, it could be a rare wild hybrid or a released snake.
While it is illegal to own any of the native kingsnakes, it is legal to own California kingsnakes, Florida kingsnakes and the Mexican kingsnake species.
Sometimes these snakes can escape or be released either on purpose or accidentally and end up in the wild. This is rare but possible.
Some other species of kingsnake from neighboring states can also end up in Georgia.
This is rare, but snakes may travel some distance looking for territory or food. You may see animals like the speckled kingsnake which typically goes no further east than Alabama.
There are 6 species of kingsnake that can be found normally in the state, part of the 46 snakes species found in georgia.
If you have spotted these species in the wild or other species, we would love to hear about it in the comments below.
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