Dig Deeper

Overview Taxonomy


“Where I live”

California kingsnakes are found throughout most of California, neighboring states, and northern Mexico. They thrive in many habitat types, from marshes and grasslands to forest, scrub, and desert.

“How I live there”

California kingsnakes do most of their hunting and cruising at dawn or dusk. During the day, they tend to rest under leaf litter or other cover or bask in the sun, depending on whether they need to stay cool or warm up. Like other reptiles, they are cold-blooded and rely on the environment to help regulate their body temperature. During the winter, these snakes burrow into crevices or under rocks, logs, or other cover and brumate.

California kingsnakes are powerful constrictors that prey upon a wide variety of animals, including other snakes, rodents and other small mammals, lizards, frogs, salamanders, birds, and large invertebrates. They also eat lizard eggs, snake eggs, and bird eggs.

California kingsnakes are active rather than ambush hunters. In other words, they go in search of their next meal rather than letting it come to them. They are largely terrestrial but can climb trees and swim.

“Making my mark”

California kingsnakes are immune to rattlesnake venom! They will prey upon rattlesnakes and other venomous snakes, given the chance. When confronted by a kingsnake, rattlesnakes do not rattle or strike. Instead, they keep their heads low, raise their bodies in a loop, and try to beat off the kingsnake when it attacks.

“What eats me”

Hawks and other raptors, skunks, and raccoons are among the known kingsnake predators. When threatened, California kingsnakes will vibrate their tails, hiss, and roll into a protective ball.

Raising Young

Several weeks after breeding, female kingsnakes lay between 3 and 24 eggs (10 on average), cover them, and then have nothing more to do with their offspring. The eggs hatch within 2 months. Baby kingsnakes stay in their nest for about 1 week, until they shed their skin for the first time, and then disperse.


California kingsnakes are stable throughout their range. They are listed as a species of least concern by the IUCN, the world’s leading conservation organization.


  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Vertebrata
  • Class: Reptila
  • Genera: Lampropeltis
  • Species: californiae