PRAIRIE KINGSNAKE
Lampropeltis calligaster
(Harlan 1827)


lăm-prō-pĕl-tĭs — kăl-lĭ-găs-tĕr




An adult Prairie Kingsnake from Seward County. Image © Travis W. Taggart.
An adult Prairie Kingsnake from Shawnee County, Kansas. © Suzanne L. Collins, CNAH.
An adult Prairie Kingsnake from Meade County. Image © Travis W. Taggart.
An sub-adult Prairie Kingsnake from Barton County. © Maci Loughrea.
Adut from Seward County. Image © Suzanne L. Collins, CNAH.
An adult from Waubaunsee County. Image © Jim Scharosch.

Description:
The Prairie Kingsnake's coloration is variable, with some adult individuals appearing darker than others. The background may be light gray to tan to brown with a row of darker brown to reddish (rarely greenish) irregularly shaped transverse dorsal blotches down the center of the back. There is a similar colored row of offset smaller irregularly shaped lateral blotches running along each side. And a third row (smaller still; and in line with the dorsal mid-line blotches) just above the belly scutes. Each blotch has a thin dark brown/black border. Specimens from the southwestern extent of their range in Kansas have a lighter ground color (tan to gray) and the blotches are fewer and more spread out. Older individuals may be dark brown (and occasionally striped), to the point the dorsal pattern is obfuscated.
The belly is cream or yellowish with diffuse red to brown checkers scattered randomly on the venter. There is often a dark line from the eye to the angle of the jaw, and there may be dark sutures on the lips. The Prairie Kingsnake's scales are smooth and the anal plate is single. The young are more brightly and contrastingly patterned than adults. The neck is not clearly defined.
Adults normally grow 760-1,067 mm (30-42 inches) in TL; largest specimen from Kansas: male (KU 192452) from Miami County with TL of 1,324 mm (52 inches) collected by R. B. Hager on 23 September 1982; maximum length throughout range: 56¼ inches (Bird et al., 2005); maximum weight for Kansas specimen: 405 grams (slightly over 14 ounces). Males have relatively longer tails (15.2% of SVL) compared to females (13.5% of SVL) and reach a greater length (870 mm vs 823 mm) and mass ( 216 gms vs. 176.5 gms) respectively (Fitch, 1979).

Distribution:
This species occurs throughout the eastern two-thirds of Kansas and enters the southwestern quarter along the tributaries of the Arkansas and Cimarron rivers.

(, Museum Voucher) (, Observation) (, Literature Record)
Open icons are questionable records; Click on a marker to view details. Export Google Earth (.kml)
  • Occurrence Summary:  
  • 417 Total Records 
  • 347 Museum Vouchers 
  • 70 Other Observations 
Some county occurrences indicated below may be too imprecise to map above.
County Breakdown: County Name (# occurrences):
Allen (5); Anderson (6); Atchison (6); Barber (15); Barton (3); Bourbon (12); Brown (4); Butler (6); Chase (6); Chautauqua (5); Cherokee (4); Clark (3); Clay (1); Cloud (1); Coffey (2); Comanche (8); Cowley (12); Crawford (11); Dickinson (1); Doniphan (2); Douglas (77); Edwards (1); Elk (3); Ellis (6); Ellsworth (5); Ford (5); Franklin (30); Geary (2); Gray (1); Greenwood (3); Hamilton (1); Harper (5); Harvey (1); Jackson (2); Jefferson (3); Johnson (7); Kearney (2); Kingman (3); Kiowa (2); Labette (9); Leavenworth (3); Linn (1); Lyon (1); Marion (1); Marshall (2); McPherson (1); Meade (12); Miami (6); Mitchell (1); Montgomery (4); Morris (2); Nemaha (1); Neosho (9); Osage (8); Ottawa (2); Pawnee (1); Pottawatomie (2); Pratt (7); Reno (4); Rice (6); Riley (5); Rush (2); Russell (6); Saline (5); Sedgwick (3); Seward (3); Shawnee (14); Stafford (4); Sumner (3); Unknown (2); Wabaunsee (3); Washington (3); Wilson (2); Woodson (5); Wyandotte (2);

Natural History:
Inhabits rocky hillsides with open woods, prairie grassland, and sand prairies. Very secretive; when not actively prowling, retreats beneath rocks or down burrows of other animals.  
The Prairie Kingsnake is a constrictor. Feeds on small mammals, small snakes and lizards, and bird eggs. Fitch (1979) found that of 66 recorded food items, 66% by volume, was Prairie Voles, Microtus ochrogaster.
Sexual maturity is obtained in the second or third year (Fitch, 1979). Prairie Kingsnakes mate soon after emergence from their brumacula. The male will bite the head or neck of the female during courtship and keep a hold during copulation. Collins (1993) reports egg laying in June or July. The average clutch size is 11 (5-17). The eggs hatch in September.
Prairie Kingsnakes are often the first terrestrial snakes active each year. During the summer they are more fossorial and surface actively primarily at night.

Occurrence Activity:
White dates indicate there is at least a single recorded occurrence on that date. The darker blue a date is, the greater the relative number of observations for that date.
Remarks:
First definitely reported from Kansas by Cope (1891). 
Branson (1904) reported examining specimens from Scott, Gove, and Logan counties which outside of its range as currently described. Tiehen (1937) reported a specimen removed from the stomach of a Great Horned Owl one mile east of Coolidge in Hamilton County.
These snakes utilize a wide variety of habitats. They are found in prairies, (including sand prairies), open grassland, fields, pastures, in ditches along cultivated field and roads, woodlands, and some stream valleys and associated bluffs. They are most common in grasslands along forest edges and are only occasionally found in sand prairies. They also do not appear to be found deep in heavy woodlands very often.
Burt (1935) reported on a young Prairie Kingsnake that was swallowed by an adult North American Racer near Lake City, Kansas, on 31 August 1934, and that an adult Six-lined Racerunner was regurgitated from the stomach of a half-grown Prairie Kingsnake at Lamont, Kansas, on 19 May 1934.

Bibliography:
1827 Harlan, Richard. Genera of North American Reptilia, and a synopsis of the species Journal of the Academy of Natural Sciences Philidelphia 5(2):317-372
1857 Hallowell, Edward. Note on the collection of reptiles from the neighborhood of San Antonio, Texas, recently presented to the Academy of Natural Sciences by Dr. A. Heerman. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia 8():306-310
1857 Hallowell, Edward. Notice of a collection of reptiles from Kansas and Nebraska presented to the Academy of Natural Sciences, by Doctor Hammond, U. S. A. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia 8():238-253
1860 Cope, Edward D. Catalogue of the Colubridae in the Museum of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, with notes and descriptions of new species. Part 2. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia 12():241-266
1875 Cope, Edward D. Check-list of North American Batrachia and Reptilia; with a systematic list of the higher groups, and an essay on geographical distribution. Based on the specimens contained in the U.S. National Museum. Bulletin of the United States National Museum 1():1-104
1877 Mozley, Annie E List of Kansas snakes in the museum of the Kansas State Univeristy Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 6():34-35
1882 Yarrow, Henry C. Check list of North American Reptilia and Batrachia with catalogue of specimens in U. S. National Museum. Bulletin of the United States National Museum (24):1-249
1891 Cope, Edward D. A critical review of the characters and variations of the snakes of North America. Proceedings of the National Museum 14(882):589-694
1901 Brown, Arthur Erwin. A review of the genera and species of American snakes, north of Mexico. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia 53(1):10-110
1904 Branson, Edwin B. Snakes of Kansas. University of Kansas Science Bulletin 2(13):353-430
1907 Ditmars, Raymond L. The Reptile Book; A comprehensive, Popularised Work on the Structure and Habits of the Turtles, Tortoises, Crocodilians, Lizards and Snakes which Inhabit the United States and Northern Mexico. Doubleday, Pae, and Company, New York. 472pp.
1911 Hurter, Julius. Herpetology of Missouri. Transactions of the Academy of Science St. Louis 20(5):59-274
1921 Blanchard, Frank N. A revision of the king snakes: Genus Lampropeltis.. Bulletin of the United States National Museum (114):1-260
1928 Burt, Charles E. Some distributional and ecological records of Kansas reptiles. Transactions of the Academy of Science St. Louis 26():186-208
1929 Taylor, Edward H. A revised checklist of the snakes of Kansas. University of Kansas Science Bulletin 19(5):53-62
1933 Stejneger, Leonhard and Thomas Barbour. A Checklist of North American Amphibians and Reptiles. 3rd Edition. Harvard University Press, Cambridge,Massachusetts. pp.
1934 Brennan, Lawrence A. A check list of the amphibians and reptiles of Ellis County, Kansas. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 37():189-191
1934 Burt, Charles E. and W. L. Hoyle. Additional records of the reptiles of the central prairie region of the United States. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 37():193-216
1935 Brennan, Lawrence A. Notes on the Distribution of Amphibia and Reptilia of Ellis County, Kansas. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 114pp.
1935 Burt, Charles E. Further records of the ecology and distribution of amphibians and reptiles in the middle west. American Midland Naturalist 16(3):311-366
1935 Burt, Charles E. and William L. Hoyle. Additional records of the reptiles of the central prairie region of the United States Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 37():193-216
1937 Tihen, Joseph A. Additional distributional records of amphibians and reptiles in Kansas counties Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 40():401-409
1953 Schmidt, Karl P. A Check List of North American Amphibians and Reptiles. 6th Edition. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois. 280pp.
1956 Loomis, Richard B. The chigger mites of Kansas (Acarina, Trombiculidae). University of Kansas Science Bulletin 37():1195-1443
1962 Gish, Charles D. The Herpetofauna of Ellis County, Kansas. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 34pp.
1973 Blaney, Richard M.. Lampropeltis. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles (150):1-2
1973 McLeran, V. Friendly constrictors. Kansas Fish and Game (30(2)):8-11
1976 Caldwell, Janalee P. and Gregory. Glass. Vertebrates of the Woodson County State Fishing Lake and Game Management Area. Pages 62-76 in Preliminary inventory of the biota of Woodson County State Fishing Lake and Game Management Area. Report No. 5. State Biological Survey of Kansas, Lawrence. pp.
1978 Curl, Richard L. Final Environmental Statement: Milford Lake Kansas operation and maintenance. US Army Corps of Engineers, Kansas City District. 158pp.
1978 Fitch, Henry S. A field study of the prairie kingsnake (Lampropeltis calligaster). Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 81(4):353-363
1978 Fitch, Henry S. and E. Raymond Hall. A 20year record of succession on reseeded fields of tallgrass prairie on the Rockefeller Experimental Tract. University of Kansas Museum of Natural History Special Publication (4):1-15
1979 Fitch, Henry S A field study of the prairie kingsnake (Lampropeltis calligaster) Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 81(4):441-461
1980 Clarke, Robert F. Herptiles and fishes of the western Arkansas River in Kansas. United States Army Corps of Engineers, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 55pp.
1982 Fitch, Henry S. Resources of a snake community in prairie-woodland habitat of northeastern Kansas. Pages 83-97 in Herpetological communities: A symposium of the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles and the Herpetologists League, August 1977.  Wildlife Research Reports 12. 239 pp. U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, D. C. pp.
1983 Collins, Joseph T. New records of fishes, amphibians, and reptiles in Kansas for 1982 . Technical Publication of the State Biological Survery of Kansas 13():9-21
1989 Collins, Joseph T. New records of amphibians and reptiles in Kansas for 1988. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (75):15-18
1991 Fitch, Henry S. Reptiles and amphibians of the Kansas ecological reserves. Pages 71-74 in Multidisciplinary Guidebook 4. Kansas Academy of Science, Lawrence. pp.
1991 Taggart, Travis W. Geographic distribution: Lampropeltis calligaster calligaster. Herpetological Review 22():67
1996 Rakestraw, J. Spring herp counts: A Kansas tradition. Reptile & Amphibian Magazine (March-April):75-80
1998 Gamble, Jerre Marais des Cygnes National Wildlife Refuge Comprehensive Conservation Plan U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Hartford, Kansas. 91pp.
2000 Taggart, Travis W. Biogeographic analysis of the reptiles (Squamata) in Ellis County, Kansas. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (121):7-16
2000 Taggart, Travis W. KHS spring field trip sets record for attendance. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (120):5-5
2001 Taggart, Travis W. The KHS 2001 spring field trip: A rainy rendezvous. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (124):12-14
2002 Collins, Suzanne L., Joseph T. Collins, and Eric Kessler. Geographic distribution: Lampropeltis calligaster. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (3):13
2002 Riedle, J. Daren and A. Hynek. Amphibian and reptile inventory of the Kansas Army Ammunition Plant, Labette County, Kansas. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (2):18-20
2002 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the KHS 2002 fall field Trip. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (4):11-13
2003 Freeman, Craig C. A natural areas inventory of the Ft. Leavenworth Military Reservation, Leavenworth County, Kansas. II. Open-file Report No. 117. Kansas Biological Survey, Lawrence, Kansas. 199pp.
2003 Pisani, George R. Natural history notes: Lampropeltis calligaster calligaster. Herpetological Review 34():150
2004 Delisle, Jennifer M. and William H. Busby Biological inventory for vertebrates at Fort Larned National Historic Site of the southern plains network. Natural Heritage Inventory, Kansas Biological Survey, Lawrence. 61pp.
2004 Pilch, J. A. Lampropeltis calligaster. Winter activity. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (9):7
2006 Taggart, Travis W. Distribution and status of Kansas herpetofauna in need of information. State Wildlife Grant T7. Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Pratt. vii + 106pp.
2010 Miller, Larry L. 2010 Investigation of the Checkered Garter Snake in Kansas with notes on other Amphibians, Reptiles, and Turtles encountered. Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Pratt, Kansas. 31pp.
2011 McMartin, David C. U. S. Army 2011 Fort Leavenworth Herpetofaunal Survey: 23 April - 09 May 2011. Privately printed, Leavenworth, Kansas. 33pp.
2012 Rohweder, Megan R. Spatial conservation prioritization of Kansas for terrestrial vertebrates. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 151pp.
2015 Brown, Kasandra A. Occupancy Modeling Of Herpetofauna And Grassland Nesting Birds At Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 72pp.
2016 McKelvy, Alexander and Frank T. Burbrink. Ecological divergence in the Yellow-bellied Kingsnake (Lampropeltis calligaster) at two North American biodiversity hotspots. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 106(2017):61-72
2016 Pittman, Galen L., Henry S. Fitch, and W. Dean Kettle Vertebrate animals on the Fitch Natural History Reservation (1948-2002) Kansas Biological Survey Report Number 188, Lawrence. 48pp.
2018 Burbrink, Frank T. and Marcelo Gehara The biogeography of deep time phylogenetic reticulation. Systematic Biology 67(5):743–755
Account Last Updated:
9/25/2019 4:22:17 PM


Travis W. Taggart © 2020 — Sternberg Museum of Natural History, Fort Hays State University