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San Diego Mountain Kingsnake
Lampropeltis zonata pulchra

  • Hatchling: 8 - 11 in..
  • Adult: 26 - 42 in.(normal)

  • Dorsal: 21 - 23 rows
  • Ventral: 194 - 220
  • Sub caudal: 47 - 59
  • Infra labial:91
  • Supra labial: 7
  • Anal Plate: Single

San Diego County, Ca. Palomar Mountains
Photo Courtesy Kirk Setser
- click to enlarge

Written by Paul Lynum
Common Name:
San Diego Mountain Kingsnake

Scientific Name:
Lampropeltis zonata pulchra

Generally an all black snout. Little red eyelashes also common on many of these snakes.

Extremely variable in the five main mountain ranges in which they are found. In the south, these snakes tend to have a deep reddish orange. The farther north, their red loses the deepness of the red in the orange. In Orange county, Ca, The orange takes on a light reddish appearance and in Los Angeles county, Ca, the snakes take on a ripe tomato red. Black crossovers are more common than noted in most literature, 50% is average. Triads range 28-39(34 average).

Bands in most cases do complete on the ventral. Half of the specimens tend to have a "clean" ventral with very little black and white color bleeding in between bands. The other half have alot of color in between each body triad.

The Laguna, Cuyamaca, Palomar, Hot Springs Mountains of San Diego county, Ca., and the Santa Ana Mountains of Orange county, Ca., as well as the Santa Monica Mountains and Verdugo Hills of Los Angeles county, CA.

In San Diego county, they are common throughout the pines at elevations of 4500-6200 feet. Sometimes found in the Chaparral belt. In Orange and Los Angeles counties they are generally restricted to lower canyon bottoms in riparian habitat surrounded by chaparral.

In the wild they live on a diet of skinks and fench lizards. Captive specimens do very well on laboratory rodents such as small weaned and large pinkie mice. Hatchlings can be extremely difficult to get on to newborn pinkie mice. Try a lizard scented pinkie. If you have no success, put the snake into hibernation for a two month period. Wake up and try a unscented pinkie. After time, the snake should take the pinkie. At least a scented pinkie should work. They act this way because in the wild they rarely eat after hatching. Their first meal is in the following spring. In Captivity adults tend to stop eating in early July.

A secretive snake restricted to granite rockoutcroppings and riparian canyon bottoms. Emerges from hibernation sometime in March, spending most of their time under rocks and surface objects for the first few weeks. As the temperature gets warmer in the following weeks, they retreat back underground until the next spring. Their activity period on ground is very limited. Though they are occasionally found during the summer while crossing roads after dark. Newborn hatchlings are sometimes found in the fall.

In the wild breeding occurs from the end of April till the middle of June. Eggs are laid sometime in July and August hatching in September and October. In captivity I have had my success by the doing the following. In the beginning of October shutting of all food. I keep the temperature about 82 F. Keeping them warm will help the digestive track clean out. About the first or second week in November I drop the temperature 5 degrees everyday until 50 F is reached. During this period the snakes will be kept in complete darkness. February 15 and the lights come back on and the temperature is brought up 5 degrees a day till 75 F is met. The males are fed one mouse a week and depending on size of the females, feed 2-3 mice a week. I put the female in with the male at the end of March. The females usually show signs of eggs a few weeks later. I put in a nest box after a pre-egg laying shed. After a clutch of 3-9 eggs(5 average) have been dropped, put them in a plastic shoebox with moist vermiculite. Eggs should be kept at about 80-85 F. Hatching takes about 60-80 days. When the female has finished laying her eggs, feed her 4-6 mice a week until she is back to her normal self. Do not get her to obese.

Literature Cited:
Stebbins,Robert C. 1985 second editition revised. A field guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians. Houghton Mifflin Company

Lynum, Paul J. Unpublished natural history notes on Lampropeltis zonata

McGurty, Brian M. Natural history of the California Mountain Kingsnake Lampropeltis zonata. Proceedings of the Conference on California Herpetology. Southwestern Herpetologists Society Special Publication No. 4.1988.

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