The California King Snake (Lampropeltis getula californiae) can be found from Arizona to southern California. King snakes don’t grow too long and are becoming popular because of their easy care. This species is notoriously known for irregular eating patterns or even refusing food, but with the right care this problem is avoidable.
California king snakes are striped with black and white or cream bands. Breeders are achieving new and unique color patterns or "morphs" with these snakes, but prices run a little higher. Adult king snakes are about 4 feet long, and remain thin. Hatchling snakes are under a foot long. If cared for properly a California king snake can live to be 10 or more years of age.
Hatchling will nip you in defense if you grab at them, but with regular interaction they will mellow out. As adults, king snakes can be held and played with daily if you choose. If you want to hold your snake, wait 48 hours after they have eaten so regurgitation does not occur.
In captivity king snakes can live off of frozen-thawed mice of a suitable size for their girth. Hatchling California king snakes should be fed a pinkie mouse once a week. Adults will take larger adult mice, and only need to be fed once every 10 days. A good rule when determining the size of mouse you should feed is that there should be a noticeable lump after the mouse has been swallowed, but not an abnormal bulge.
Hatchlings need very little space, and a plastic shoe box will be plenty of space. Adult California king snakes need a tank of 20 gallons. Being mostly land dwelling, there is little need for height when choosing an enclosure for your snake. Adult male snakes should not be housed together because they will fight, even if there is no female present.
If you are looking for a substrate that is easy to keep clean and requires little maintenance, paper towels or newspaper works wonderful. Paper substrates should be used for hatchlings so they do not ingest loose particles. If you want a more natural substrate, you can use newspaper shredding, aspen bedding or reptile carpet. Never use substrates with pine or cedar in them because both are very toxic to California king snakes.
Shelter is an important component of a good enclosure setup because if your snake feels exposed, it will be stressed and can lead to problems like not eating. Provide at least two good shelters in the enclosure that are snug, but not too tight. Reptile shelters are sold at most pet stores or you can use every day objects like a used toilet paper role. Your snake will not mind as long as it works.
Being from Arizona, this species of snake likes heat. A basking spot of about 90F should be found at one end of the enclosure. The temperature can be reached using a reptile heat pad or an overhead bulb. Do not use a heat pad on plastic enclosures and be sure to layer paper substrates thick enough so your king snake doesnít get burned. Always keep a thermometer in the cage. California king snakes do not need any special UV bulbs.
A small water dish should be found in the enclosure with fresh water at all times. Kings snakes enjoy desert-like conditions so keep the overall humidity low.
Spot clean the enclosure daily. Paper substrates should be replaced when soiled. Loose substrates need to be replaced every 2-3 months.
Breeding king snakes can be a very rewarding experience, and the process is relatively simple. It is best to introduce the male and the female in early spring in a 20 gallon enclosure. Both snakes should be at least 1.5 years old and fully mature. Your snakes will mate after a couple of weeks, and your female will begin producing eggs. Before mating, your female may be extremely hungry, and should be fed every 5 days. During the egg making and laying process, she will not want to eat anything. This is completely normal.
A box of moist sphagnum moss or dirt should be placed in the cage to give the female a place to lay her eggs. 5 weeks after mating, you can begin to expect eggs. Once eggs have been laid they should be put in an incubator at 88F.
Hatchling king snakes are under a foot long and can be kept in groups. If you keep them in groups make sure everyone is eating. Hatchlings should be kept on paper towels with enough hides and water. Their care is basically the same as adultís, but everything is smaller. Once they are born, they are ready to eat, and will eat the smallest of pinkie mice.
California king snakes are easy to care fun, and fun to own. They donít get too big and interacting with them can keep you entertained for hours. Remember, do your research before buying any pet so that it can live happily and healthily.
I received my healthy albino checkered garter snake in the mail with no blemishes. He is amazingly easy to hold and has never been aggressive or shown any signs of nervousness. He did have mites, but otherwise he is very nice and beautiful snake. Thank you Robert!
Sean Harper - February 7, 2015
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