Mexican Black Kingsnake
Lampropeltis getula nigrita
The Mexican black kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula nigrita) is a non-venomous colubrid snake and considered a subspecies of the common kingsnake, which contains as many as 10 unique species. They are also known as the Western black kingsnake.
The Mexican black kingsnake is found in the Sonora and Sinaloa desert from Northwestern Sinaloa and western Sonora, Mexico as far north as southeastern Arizona in the United States. Although some recent evidence indicates that Mexican black kingsnakes found in Arizona sometimes interbreed with the California kingsnake or the desert black kingsnake.
They are very well adapted to the desert, occupying semi-desert rocky areas but are also found in semi-arid grasslands as well. They are active both during the day and at night. But usually hunt during the daytime, as they rely on their vision to locate prey.
But if it is too hot during the day Mexican black kingsnakes will stay hidden in rodent burrows or under debris to avoid the harsh desert sun, only emerging at night to hunt when it's cooler.
The Mexican black kingsnake has a long smooth and slender body with a small oval shaped head, roughly the same size as the neck. They grow on average between 3 to 4 ft (90-120 cm) long but may reach a length of around 5 ft (152 cm), at least in captivity. Adult snakes typically weigh between 3 and 4 lbs. Their eyes are small and black with round pupils.
However, a common misconception is that they are always jet black in color like the Eastern indigo snake. But in fact, they are more of a beautiful glossy blackish or very dark chocolate color in the back but also ventrally.
Young Mexican black kingsnakes often have little yellow spots on many scales. However every time the snake sheds its skin these fade a little more and by it reaches adulthood the spotting is usually completely gone. Sometimes some white dot markings under the chin will remain.
Their scales also reflect a characteristic bluish shimmer, similar to that of other snakes like the beautiful Brazilian rainbow boa (Epicrates Cenchria Cenchria).
When cornered or threatened, they will rattle their tails trying to imitate a rattlesnake, hiss and bite the perceived threat. If picked up by a predator the Mexican black kingsnake may expel a foul-smelling musk or defecate trying to dissuade the predator from eating them.
They have several predators, including coyotes, foxes, feral cats, hawks, and owls. The Mexican black kingsnake lives around 10 to 20 years on average.
These snakes are normally very docile and do well in captivity making them good pets. Since they are quite easy to care for, Mexican black kingsnakes have become a popular pet snake, particularly suitable for novice collectors. As a whole, kingsnakes are regarded as one of the most popular pet snakes followed by the Boa constrictor.
Diet / Feeding
The Mexican black kingsnake like all snakes is a carnivore, it's also an opportunistic hunter entering the burrows of rodents and other small animals, in search of prey. It feeds primarily on cold-blooded animals like lizards and other snakes.
Mexican black kingsnakes are known to be cannibalistic. Since they are immune to the venom of the rattlesnakes found in their habitat they are excellent predators of these venomous pit vipers.
Their common name "King" derives from this ability to eat other snakes just like the King Cobra (Ophiophagus hannah). But they will also hunt virtually any animal small enough for them to overpower, kill and eat, like rodents, birds, and frogs.
These snakes are powerful constrictors and will first bite their prey to grab it and then wrap a few coils around it squeezing until the animal dies from suffocation or cardiac arrest.
The mating season occurs during spring when Mexican black kingsnake males begin their search for females. The Mexican black kingsnake is oviparous meaning they are egg-layers.
Females lay a single clutch of up to 24 eggs, 40 to 65 days after copulation. Usually, they breed every year but when prey is scarce, females may choose not to breed. Like most other snakes species females provide no parental care to the eggs.
Hatchlings are born after an incubation period of 50 to 60 days, they measure around 7 inches (18 cm) long and must fend for themselves immediately. The hatchlings will shed their skin for the first time roughly a week after birth. They grow quickly and maturity is reached in two or three years.
Conservation / Threats
The Mexican black kingsnake has yet to be assessed for the IUCN Red List. However their species the common kingsnake is listed as a “species of concern” on the U.S. Federal list, probably due to the sharp decline of the Florida kingsnake.
Did You Know?
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