SALT & PEPPER KINGSNAKE
We were at Bosque Del Apache watching some snowy egrets, when I saw this “black stick” slowing moving across the road about 50 yards ahead of us. I drove up to where I thought it had been. I got out of the car and I guess I was thinking the snake would be much further away by now. I was looking for him down in the brush when I glanced down at my feet and he was about a foot away from my boot.
I had my 300mm lens with an 1.4 tel-extender which made the big guy (4 feet) a little too close to get more than sections of him. The combination of a black snake and heavy shade made for a wide aperture and very little DOF. He sniffed and posed for 5 minutes or so. He allowed me to gently lift his tail section off the ground. He finally grew tired of me and quickly disappeared down a hole in the ground.
The speckled kingsnake is often called the “salt-and-pepper” snake. This snake is easily recognized by the light spots covering a black body. The body is almost always solid black and the spots range from yellow-orange through creamy yellow to ivory white. The spots can appear on almost every scale. It is not uncommon for the spots to form thin, light crossbars on the dorsal surface, making the snake look somewhat banded.
The semi-banded specimens are the most common pattern form throughout the range of speckled kingsnakes. Animals with little or no banding pattern are often referred to as “multipspeckled.”
Although most wild caught speckled kingsnakes will calm down in captivity, this subspecies has a reputation for being more aggressive than others. From personal experience, about 40% of our wild caught individuals will try to bite and emit a foul smelling musk that you won’t soon forget. The other 60% range in attitude from extremely docile to just wiggly when held. With frequent handling, though, most will calm down and make as fine a “pet” as any other kingsnake. However, captive bred pets are strongly recommended over wild collected ones.
Speckled kingsnakes are well respected by most of the rural folks. Most of them are well aware of their appetite for rodents, although they unknowingly think that they primarily seek out and eat predominately venomous snakes. They DO eat venomous snakes but only as opportunistic feeders. They eat what is available to them, i.e. whatever they come across. Young feed mainly on lizards and small snakes (such as baby garter and ribbon snakes). Adults feed mainly on rodents and snakes (including various water snake and cottonmouths). Speckled kingsnakes utilize many habitats including farms, open fields, swampy areas, forested areas and in many towns.
Experience a little wild on your journey††††nada te turbe†††jim