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Arizona Mountain Kingsnake
Lampropeltis pyromelana pyromelana

Size:
  • Hatchling: 9 in.
  • Adult: 18 - 44 inches

Scalation:
  • Dorsal: 23 - 25
  • Ventral: over 210
  • Sub caudal: 59 - 79
  • Infra labial:10
  • Supra labial: 7-8
  • Anal Plate: Single

Sierra County
Photo by Kirk Setzer
Written by Gerold Merker

Coloration:

  • Head:
  • Readily distinguished from the California mountain kingsnake, Lampropeltis zonata, by the presence of a white or yellow snout. Head is usually black on top, although many specimens may have flashes of red over the eyes.

  • Dorsal:
  • A tri-colored kingsnake with triads made up of red, black, and yellow (or white) bands. Triad counts range from 28 to over 80 bands, depending on the population and the locale from which they came from.

  • Ventral:
  • May have red, black, and yellow (or white) pigment distributed in a "checkerboard" pattern or in a random fashion. Certain populations have a continuation of the dorsal pattern carried out in an imperfect fashion on their ventral surfaces.

Behavior:

In Arizona animals have been observed from April through November. The later sightings have been made on warm, sunny days. Many sightings have been in the afternoon. However, surface activity has ranged from early morning through the evening, depending on weather conditions. Animals are frequently seen in June, July, or August, often after a rain shower. Temperatures recorded for surface activity of these snakes have ranged from 72 ºF (23 ºC) to 84 ºF (29 ºC).

Occasionally, Sonoran mountain kingsnakes have been observed climbing in trees utilizing their belly scutes. Naturalists have observed Sonoran mountain kingsnakes at approximately one to two meters above ground level in low bushes, perhaps foraging for nestling birds.

Breeding:

Central to successful captive breeding of Sonoran mountain kingsnakes is a cooling, or brumation, period. Even yearly animals benefit from the cooling period because it helps their feeding response after the "spring" warm-up. Before the cooling period starts, snakes should be allowed access to the warm heat tapes for approximately two weeks after their last feeding of the fall, which is usually November 1st. This insures that their gut contents have been eliminated before the cooling period begins. A cooling period down to 50º F (10º C) for 10 - 12 weeks works well for this species. After 12 weeks the heat tapes are turned on again, and within two weeks most Sonoran mountain kingsnakes should begin to feed. During this period it is critical that the females receive adequate food to build up their energy stores for proper egg production. During the "spring" season most Sonoran mountain kingsnakes have an aggressive feeding response. Breeding usually takes place from six to twelve weeks after the spring "warming". Most copulations occur within a six to seven week period starting in late March and ending in mid-May. Actual copulations last from less than three minutes to almost 30 minutes.

Developing eggs will become apparent by the end of four weeks. Many gravid females become very distended by the end of the two month gestation. Without exception a female will have a shed within a period of 10 - 21 (average: 14) days prior to egg-laying. Females will usually utilize a next box containing damp paper towels or sphagnum moss to lay her eggs. Clutch sizes have range one - eight eggs, with an average of 4 eggs.

Eggs can be incubated using vermiculite at a ratio of one part vermiculite to one part of spring water, by weight. The eggs should be incubated in an incubator set at 82 ºF (27 ºC). At this temperature eggs take approximately 60 days to hatch (range 54 - 67 days). After females have laid their eggs, many have lost a tremendous amount of weight. These snakes often have the appearance of a recently "run-over" snake. With a feeding regimen of two fuzzies every three days, these snakes rapidly replenish their energy stores and look more robust within a few weeks.

Range:

Central and southeastern Arizona and into northern Mexico, ranging south into the states of Chihuahua and Sonora.

Habitat:

Typical Sonoran mountain kingsnake habitat includes mountainous regions with elevations of 2,800 feet (850 meters) to over 9,100 feet (2,800 meters) Robert Stebbins (1985) describes habitat as ranging from pinyon-juniper woodland and chaparral through pine-fir woodlands. Often, these snakes are found near streams. An important aspect of their macrohabitat is rock piles since these are mainly a sauxicolous (rock-dwelling) snake. Although there are certainly exceptions, it is thought that Sonoran mountain kingsnakes do not venture far from their rock pile homes.

Prey:

Food in the wild includes various lizard species, lizard eggs, rodents, and birds. Many specimens collected in the field have voided either lizard scales or rodent fur in their feces. Other sources (Stebbins, 1985; Degenhardt et al., 1996) list the following as prey items: the Yarrow's spiny lizard (Sceloporus yarrovi), climbing lizards (Urosaurus ornatus.), white-footed deer mice (Peromyscus sp.) and birds.

Literature Cited:

Degenhardt, William G.; Charles W. Painter; and Andrew H. Price. 1996. Amphibians and Reptiles of New Mexico. University of New Mexico Press. Albuquerque, New Mexico. 431 pp.

Stebbins, Robert C. 1954. Reptiles and Amphibians of the Western United States. McGraw-Hill, New York, Toronto, London. 438 pp.

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Recent Mountain Kingsnakes Forum Posts
• Ring counts for pyros, posted by emoryi
• Breeding size for Arizona Mountain Kings, posted by 4dnospolk
• incubation time approx., posted by kcaj
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