Mole Kingsnake (Lampropeltis calligaster)

Photos by J.D. Willson unless otherwise noted

Description: The mole kingsnake is a seldom seen snake that grows to about 30-40 inches in size. They have smooth scales and usually have a light/dark brown to reddish body with a row of reddish brown elliptical spots down the entire length of the dorsum. This pattern, though, often fades with age and older specimens can have no pattern at all. Their venter is usually whitish or yellowish with red, gray, or brown mottling. Compared to males, females tend to have tails that are shorter and taper more quickly after the vent.

Distribution and Habitat: Mole kingsnakes are found throughout the Mid-Atlantic States but are absent from mountainous regions of the Appalachians, most of Florida , and the Deep South. Scattered populations of this species in central Florida are considered a different subspecies. The Mole kingsnake is unusual because it is one of the few herpetofaunal species in our region that can be considered to be characteristic of the Piedmont where it is most common, compared to a few areas of the Coastal Plain in North and South Carolina. Within the Piedmont mole kingsnakes can be found in a variety of habitats but are most common in open habitats such as fields, cultivated lands, thickets, and edge habitats.

Habits: Mole kingsnakes are rarely seen in the wild since they tend to be fossorial, spending much of their time underground and out of sight. As a result, there is little known about the biology and status of these secretive snakes. Most mole kingsnakes are observed hiding under boards or other debris or crossing roads on warm evenings. Like other kingsnakes mole kings eat a variety of prey including small mammals, lizards, birds, and other snakes. Mating takes place in late spring to early summer. Up to 17 eggs are laid underground in early to mid summer. Eggs hatch in late summer to early fall.

Conservation Status: Although uncommonly encountered, mole kingsnakes are fairly abundant in some areas. This species is protected throughout the state of Georgia, but not in other parts of its distribution. The fossorial habits of this species allow it to persist in suburban and agricultural areas.

Account author: Justin Oguni, University of Georgia – revised by J.D. Willson