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Program and General Information
The Arizona Mountain Kingsnake is a small snake inhabiting parts of the southwestern US down into Mexico. They are a classic Batesian mimic, because their red, white, and black banding mimics the coloration and pattern of the venomous Western Coral Snakes. Even though these snakes are harmless, their coloration acts as a warning to predators and keeps them safe from predation.
They are a constrictor snake, relying on their ability to suffocate their prey before ingestion. They get their name, “kingsnake,” from their ability to eat other venomous snakes. They are immune to the venom, whether they are bitten by or eat the venomous snakes.
Common Physical Features
Their snout is white or yellow, and their head is usually black on top, sometimes with flashes of red over the eyes. Large eyes sit on the sides of their heads. Arizona mountain kingsnakes are encircled by over 40 rings of white or yellow-white bordered by thin black and wide red sections.
These snakes reach lengths from 18 to 44 inches
Habitat and Global Range
Arizona Mountain Kingsnakes live in habitats with mixtures of rocks, tree trunks, and undergrowth in mountainous areas with nearby water in Central to Southeastern Arizona down into Mexico, as well as parts of Utah and Nevada.
Lizards, rodents, and eggs.
Behavior and Life Cycle
These snakes prefer rocky areas and tend not to venture far from their rock-pile homes. They even regulate their body temperature by moving up or down within the rock pile rather than basking directly in the sun. During the winter they brumate in their rock pile.
To discourage predators, this species releases a very strong and foul smelling musk. Predators will often release the snake before any harm is done. The kingsnake derives its name from its habit of eating other snakes, including rattlesnakes, copperheads and coral snakes. Kingsnakes are immune to their venom. Kingsnakes first seize their prey with a bite, then kill the prey by constriction, and finally swallow the prey whole.
Before breeding, they emerge from brumation – how snakes survive rough weather conditions. In contrast to hibernation and when compared to normal levels of activity, an animal in brumation has less severe changes in body temperature, respiration, and heart rate. In the wild, snakes brumate when the weather gets too cold to survive. During brumation, the snake’s metabolism becomes lower and it remains inactive. If there is a warm day of weather, a snake can “wake up” and become active again. The snake may drink water during brumation, but it does not eat.
After emerging, the snakes spend several weeks gaining weight and finding mates. Males quickly find and eagerly court ovulation females. Arizona mountain kingsnakes are oviparous, which means they lay eggs rather than bear live young.
After breeding, the female produced three to 20 eggs. Eggs are leathery and oval-shaped. They young hatch in 47 to 81 days. At birth, hatchlings are between 8 to 13 inches in length. Arizona mountain kingsnakes are sexually mature by 3 to 4 years of age.
- Their coloration is similar to that of the Western Coral Snake (Micruroides euryxanthus), causing some experts to believe that the Arizona mountain kingsnake is a Batesian mimic. Batesian mimicry occurs when a harmless animal evolves to resemble another species which possess an anti-predator defense, such as venom.
They are important predators as snakes consume many animals that humans consider pests, including mice, rats, and destructive species of insects. They help to control disease and damage to crops by preying on these species.