It is not uncommon for a lot of reptile enthusiasts to enter the pet store with no particular idea on the mind as to what to take back home.
While we think this is an excellent approach to know what your instincts are, we feel a little background research into what kind of reptile you want to pick up is an excellent step in the right direction.
Do not shy away from asking:
If you have no reliable source of verifying, do make sure to ask the person behind the counter what a good beginner’s snake is. There are a lot of snakes that novices can begin with, but if there is one that surpasses them all, then it has to be the kingsnake.
The reason for this sweeping generalization is that the kingsnake is one species that has the broadest geographical range. Imagine that there are only one species of snake that populates all the 48 states in the US. The east of the country is as diverse as the west. So, if one species of snake can live in all the areas, then it has to be a hardy one to be able to acclimate itself to any condition.
The California kingsnake is one of the sub-species of the snakes which populates California. It can also be found in the neighboring states of Oregon, Arizona, and Nevada. The snake has one more distinction, and that is to be the first snake to be bred in captivity.
There are a lot of morphs available:
There are Kingsnakes with all kinds of color and patterns under the sun; however, the original California kingsnake is one of the most sought after snake for its vibrant color and exciting designs.
Is the California kingsnake commonly available?
In the wild, it is easy to catch a kingsnake, but like all other reptiles, it is highly recommended that you pick up a captive bred one only for your pet needs. There are a few good reasons for this:
- Captive-bred snakes are virtually parasite-free
- They have an established lineage
- They come guaranteed with good genetic records
Captive-bred kingsnake is readily available in
- Reptile pet stores
- Reptile show and expos
- Online pet stores and
- Breeder’s brick and mortar store as well as their online portals
When they are hatchlings, they are anywhere between eight and twelve inches long. As adults, they grow to anywhere up to 6 feet. The average length is traditionally pegged low between 3 to 4 feet. They are not heavy and look much smaller.
Kingsnakes can live up to 20 years at the most. The female kingsnake can reproduce right from her early teens and stays fertile for most of her adulthood.
When it comes to setting up caging for the kingsnake, the rule of the thumb is to have a bigger cage. It may be big for them, but the bigger, the better it is.
An adult that is housed in a terrarium like a container that has a capacity of 20 gallons minimum is a good start. If you can manage a still bigger box, it will still work wonders.
You must make sure to have a tight and secure lid because these smart creatures are always looking out to escape.
If you thought a bigger than required terrarium meant that you could cohabit all your Kingsnakes together, you would be in for the rudest shock of your life. Kingsnakes will eat the other snakes, even if siblings from the same cluster. The juveniles can also hunt their species and eat them. Separate the youth and put them in separate enclosures.
Kingsnakes are territorial and housing two or more snakes apart from breeding invites trouble. You could witness world war-like conditions. It is purely the survival of the fittest.
Lighting and temperature:
The snakes do not require any particular type of light. The one crucial precaution that you will need to keep in mind is not placing the cage in a place where natural sunlight falls directly on the cage. It can become too hot for it to handle.
Snakes thermoregulate, and therefore, the cage must have a hot and a cold place so that the snake can migrate from time to time to suit its body temperature.
Kingsnake is a cold-blooded reptile. Avoid as much as possible hot rocks because they can potentially scald their skin. In its place, heating pads, cables, and tapes must be used to heat the ambient air as well as the substrate/floor.
The ideal temperature in the day is 85 degrees Fahrenheit, and in the night, it could dip to somewhere close to 70F.
Do not lay cat litter or any chemically treated substrate. And for heaven’s sake, say no to oily wood. The best substrate is something that will not be swallowed by the snake and cause impaction.
Have a separate container put out for its food if you feel the substrate could be ingested by it by mistake. Please be kind and provide enough hiding places for it. Please!
Any bird or small animal can become food for the snake in the wild. I captivity, give it food that it will swallow without being overpowered by its size. Rodents that include mice, reptile foods like live crickets, thawed mice are great suggestions.
Do not give live rodents as food as it would put up a fight and inflict injuries on your pet. Give food once a week. If you want it to grow up fast, you could feed it twice or thrice a week too, if the snake will take it.
Keep a well maintained deep bowl of water that is half-filled on the substrate. Half-filled because water does not overflow when the snake gets inside it. Wet cages are no good!
A captive-bred snake can still be aggressive. It is a natural defence mechanism because it takes time for it to build trust. If it strikes its tail or defecates or urinates when you pick it up, it is only because it considers you as a possible predator. While picking it up, keep your hands away from its head. And remember not to touch it when it is shedding.
A California kingsnake can be yours for as little as $100. However, there are morphs that you can get for anything in four figures. Nothing like the original, though!!