Monday, September 3, 2012

Speckled Kingsnake

Prairie chicken tracking day!  I love my day on the prairie.  It is so peaceful and there is always something interesting to observe.   When I hopped out of the tracking truck to open a pasture gate, I noticed that something in the grass at the edge of the road looked “different”.  What do you see here?  I left the gate halfway open and grabbed my camera from the truck.

Speckled Kingsnake
 It is a Speckled Kingsnake, Lampropeltis getula holbrooki.  This is gorgeous, native, non-venomous, East Texas snake.  A few years ago, there was a pair of mature Speckled Kingsnakes who liked to bask in the garden and on the patio of the Prairie Preserve office.   Those snakes were 5-6 feet long.  I am sure they managed the rodent population efficiently.

This fellow near the pasture gate was only about 3 feet long.  I got close to snap a photo, but he did not like that one bit.  First he coiled defensively, then he raised his head and made a hasty retreat.  I assured him that I did not eat snakes, but he was taking no chances.  It was just as well that he moved - as close as he was to the road, I might have accidentally driven over him with the truck.

This is a very attractive snake.   The black dorsal scales have a spot of yellow – a light on the shield if you will - thus the Latin name, Lampropeltis.  Lampro refers to torch or lamp.  Peltis refers to a crescent-shaped shield.    Speckled Kingsnakes hunt by scent and kill their prey by constriction.   According to A field Guide to Snakes of Texas by Alan Tennant, Speckled Kingsnakes eat small mammals, birds, lizards, frogs, and turtle eggs.  They also eat other snakes including coral snakes, copperheads, and rattlesnakes.   “Kingsnakes are largely immune to Crotalid venom,” Tennant says.  Cool, right?  King of the snakes!
Speckled Kingsnake, Lampropeltis getula holbrooki