How to care for Your California King Snake
California King Snakes are found in western USA and northern Mexico in a variety of habitats. They can be found in forests, deserts, grasslands, mountains, fields, coastal and suburban areas, and many other habitats as long as there is sufficient prey and shelter. The name King Snake comes from the ability to eat other snakes including Rattlesnakes. California King snakes are naturally impervious to the venom of rattlesnakes but are not totally immune. They feed on rattlesnakes regularly. As well as snakes they will also eat rodents, birds and amphibians. In captivity they will readily accept frozen rodents
California Kingsnakes are most commonly patterned with a ground color of black white bands or a single stripe down the middle of the back. There are now many colour morphs available including albino. They are also being hybridized with corn snakes.
A wooden vivarium is best for king snakes as they are better insulated than glass or plastic tanks, so therefore easier to get the heating set up correctly. They are also designed with snakes in mind so escapes are unlikely. (Remember to shut the doors properly!) A wooden vivarium will offer more privacy as they only have a glass front.
Like all snakes, baby kings can be put straight into an adult sized enclosure as long as there are enough hides. As a minimum we recommend 36″ (90cm) – but the more room the better!
King snakes should be kept separately as they are ophiophagous (snake eaters!)
Temperature is very important in reptile care as they cannot produce their own body heat and need to be kept within a suitable range to help the body function correctly.
King snakes require a temperature gradient of 25°C to 30°C during in the day; this can be achieved by using a wall mounted heat mat and a basking light on thermostats mounted at one side of the vivarium to create a warmer side. At night the temperature should drop to around 20°C to 25°C.
It is very important to know what the temperature is, so check regularly with an accurate digital thermometer.
A simply 12 hour light cycle is ideal for King snakes.
UV lighting is recommended although not considered essential.
It is important to provide your snake with fresh water every day.
Hides and Décor
The snake will require plenty of hides in the vivarium so that it can feel secure. By having several in different areas of the vivarium the snake will be able to choose the one that is at the best temperature. A humid hide is also recommended. These are hollow hides with damp moss inside, snakes will often use these when they are shedding their skin.
Plastic plants are also good to use, as these look very attractive in the vivarium as well as offering privacy.
Feed your snake one defrosted mouse weekly. The mouse should be no bigger than the largest part of the snake. King snakes can eat mice their entire lives – starting off with pinkies as a hatchling and moving up in size as the animal grows.
As snakes do not use energy to warm their bodies (as mammals do) they need less energy to function.
Resist the urge to feed your snake more often or larger prey as this can lead to the snake growing too fast, which can result in the head of the snake not growing at the same speed as the rest of the body. Obesity can also be a problem. If a snake is overfed they have no reason to move around their vivarium and this is detrimental to their health.
There are a few feeding techniques the most simple is to place the defrosted food in the vivarium near the snake and leave it to feed. The other way is to offer the food on some tongs or tweezers to the snake; they will often strike very quickly then constrict the mouse.
Snake some times will refuse to feed while shedding.
Spot-clean your snake’s enclosure as necessary, removing waste as soon as possible. Depending on cage conditions, remove all substrate & cage furniture and completely disinfect using safe disinfectant. Rinse the enclosure thoroughly and allow too dry before replacing cage furniture and your snake.
Snakes shed their skin as they grow; it normal comes off in one piece. The first stage in the process is when the eyes go opaque (cloudy) at this point the snake will not want to feed and will hide away, it is best to leave it to do so. After a few days the eyes will clear again but it won’t shed for another 7 to 10 days. If the snake has trouble removing the skin it is best to put the snake in a tub with some damp moss to help soften the skin.
Young King Snakes can often be very wriggly and will often scent mark (remember they have to learn that you aren’t going to eat them). They will soon settle with regular handling and do make interesting pets.