Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

Squamata      suborder Serpentes
Lampropeltis calligaster -- Prairie Kingsnake

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Jackson County, IL; photo by Mike Redmer distribution map

Purple shade indicates vouchered specimens. Light blue (cyan) shade indicates photographic records. Yellow shade indicates verified sighting. Slanted hatch indicates pre-1980 records only

NOTE: Not all specimens upon which these maps are based have been verified.


Key Characters: Brownish back and sides marked with dark blotches; head not much wider than neck; back scales glossy smooth; anal plate not divided.

Similar Species: Milk snake, rat snake, Great Plains rat snake, fox snake.

Subspecies: Prairie kingsnake, L. c. calligaster.

Description: Long (up to 130 cm TL), slender snake with gray to brown back, and 40-64 brown or reddish brown blotches that have dark borders. Two alternating rows of dark spots on sides (some blotches may fuse). Some individuals uniform olive brown, a few striped. Belly cream or yellowish gray with dim dark markings. Young are more distinctly blotched and their bellies more clearly marked with black.

Habitat: Grasslands from high-quality remnant prairie to degraded brushy fields. Less common in heavily farmed black-soil prairie.

Natural History: May become active on warm days even in November and December. Active by day during spring and autumn, but becomes nocturnal during hot summer months. Mates soon after emerging from hibernation in April or May. Clutches of 7-20 eggs laid in midsummer hatch in August and September. Hatchlings are 25-30 cm TL. Diet includes small mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and insects. Main predators are mammals and other snakes.

Status: Locally common in prairie remnants of the Southern Till Plain counties.

 

Illinois Natural History Survey

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