Some snakes are deadly, venomous, and consequently a symbol of fear. Many, on the other hand, are quite docile and non-venomous. The Mexican Black Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula nigrita) is one of the snakes that belong to the latter category of docile, good-natured snakes. It is a beautiful, medium-sized snake with shimmering scales, and is also quite popular as a pet.
The Mexican Black Kingsnake is one of the many subspecies of the common kingsnake. It belongs to the family of Colubrids, and found in the Sinaloa and Sonora deserts of Mexico, and also to the north in Arizona. In Arizona, it sometimes interbreed with the California kingsnakes or the desert black kingsnakes, and the Mexican Black Kingsnake populations here are not considered pure blood.
Read on to find out more fascinating details about this gentle and elegant creature.
The Mexican Black Kingsnake has a long, slender, and smooth black colored body. The head is small and oval, and roughly the same size as the neck, not quite distinguishable from it.
They are of a very beautiful and glossy shade of black, or extremely dark chocolate-colored, on the back as well as on the belly side. The scales have a characteristic bluish shimmer, and their generic name Lampropeltis means ‘shiny shield’ (derived from Greek).
They grow to an average length of 1-1.2 m. Their eyes are small with round pupils, and black in color.
The Mexican Black Kingsnake is non-venomous.
Home and Habitat
The Mexican Black Kingsnake is very well adapted to the desert environs, and can be commonly found in the rocky areas of the Sonoran desert but also in the neighboring grasslands.
They are active both during the day and at night, but they usually hunt during the day. This is because they depend on their sense of sight, at least partially, for locating their prey. While their visual acuity is not that great, they are very adept t sensing movements. However, if it is too hot, the it will remain hidden in burrows, or rocks, or debris during the day, and come out only at night to hunt.
While they are terrestrial, they are quite excellent swimmers, and also capable of climbing low vegetation.
The Mexican Black Kingsnake has a number of predators, including coyotes, feral cats, hawks, and owls. When threatened or cornered, it will rattle its tail and try to imitate the rattlesnake. It will also hiss and bite at the threat. It may also release a foul-smelling musk or feces to dissuade a predator from eating it.
Like all snakes, the Mexican Black Kingsnake is carnivorous. It primarily predates on cold-blooded animals like lizards and small snakes, but can also feed on other small animals like rodents, birds, and frogs. They are opportunistic hunters and invade the burrows of rodents and other small animals in search of their next meal.
Mexican Black Kingsnakes also feed on other snakes (ophiophagy). They are excellent predators of native pit vipers (venomous snakes like cottonmouth, rattlesnake, etc.) found in its habitat as they are immune to the venom of many of these snakes, especially the rattlesnake. In fact, the ‘King’ in their name is derived from their ability to eat other snakes.
These snakes are non-venomous. In order to hunt, they first bite their prey to grab it, and then wrap around it in coils, slowly constricting them till they suffocate or have a cardiac arrest.
The Mexican Black Kingsnakes are usually quite docile and well-behaved. In fact, they are quite popular as pet snakes, especially for novice collectors, as they are easy to take care of and can survive on a diet of mice or other rodents.
Mating and Reproduction
The mating season of Mexican Black Kingsnakes is in spring. They are oviparous – that is they lay eggs. A single clutch of about two dozen eggs is laid, which hatch about 40-60 days after copulation.
Like most snakes, the female does not provide any parental care to the eggs or the younglings. Once born, the young ones must fend for themselves.
The Mexican Black Kingsnake has not been assessed for the IUCN Red List. However, their species the common kingsnake is listed as a ‘species of concern’ on the US Federal list.
To Sum Up
The Mexican Black Kingsnakes are slender, beautiful creatures, and quite gentle and well-behaved as well. Found in the arid desert regions of Mexico and Arizona, these non-venomous snakes make for excellent pets, especially for those who are new to domesticating snakes. It is easy to take care of them and survive well on a diet of pre-killed or alive rodents.
Despite having a mostly affable relationship with humans, this stunning subspecies of the kingsnake can easily predate on some of the most vicious varieties of snakes in its habitat, especially the rattlesnake, and is immune to a variety of snake venom.