The California Kingsnake, known by its Latin name as Lampropeltis g. californiae, is mainly indigenous to the west coast of North America (whozoo.org). It is one subspecies of the common kingsnake, which can actually be found in all 48 contiguous United States (reptilesmagazine.com). It can be found anywhere from the tip of the Baja to southern Oregon, and from the west coast of California to the deserts of Nevada and Arizona. It can thrive in a variety of environments, including deserts, woodlands, farmland, chaparral, river bottoms, both deciduous and coniferous forests, and grasslands whozoo.org).
Other than during time of hibernation, the California Kingsnake is generally a solidary creature (whozoo.org). The snake is a carnivore and generally feeds on mice and other small rodents. Interestingly, it also likes to feed on other snakes (including venomous ones) because their body shape makes for ease of swallowing. The snake is able to unhinge its jaw so that it can open its mouth very wide, swallowing its prey head-first and then lubricating the body with saliva. It was thought for some time that the snake was immune to the venom of poisonous snakes, but it was revealed that it actually has a tolerance. This aids in survival because not many other animals are able to feed on snakes. The design of its body is also adaptive in that its spine is made up of hundreds of vertebra, which is then each connected to a separate pair of thin ribs. This allows the snake to coil, climb, and move in an “S” shape. The California Kingsnake also has the ability to hear low frequency sounds and vibrations, which is helpful in detecting prey from afar, even if that prey is relatively “quiet.” Finally, like many snakes, it is equipped with the Jacobson’s organ, which (along with its tongue) is used by the snake to pick up odors (The Robinson Library). It contains many nerve endings that are extremely sensitive to odors. When the snake sticks out its tongue, it picks up the scent particles, and when it pulls the tongue back in, the particles enter the Jacob’s organ. The snake can then follow the trail of its prey.
Finally, the California Kingsnake is “one of the first snakes to be bred regularly in captivity” (reptilesmagazine.com). They can regularly be purchased at pet stores and from reptile shows or breeders. The snakes are said to rarely bite, but should still be handled with caution. They are not to be put with other snakes because they may eat them.