Arizona Mountain Kingsnake
Central to southeastern Arizona down into Mexico, parts of Utah and Nevada
Prefers habitats with mixture of rocks, tree trunks, and undergrowth in mountainous areas with nearby water.
Their snout is white or yellow, and their head is usually black on top, sometimes with flashes of red over the eyes. Large eyes sit on the sides of their head. Arizona mountain kingsnakes are encircled by over 40 rings of white or yellow-white bordered by thin black and wide red sections.
These snakes prefer rocky areas and tend not to venture far from their rock-pile homes. They even regulate their body temperature by moving up or down within the rock pile rather than basking directly in the sun. During the winter they brumate in their rock pile.
To discourage predators, this species releases a very strong and foul smelling musk. Predators will often release the snake before any harm is done. The kingsnake derives its name from its habit of eating other snakes, including rattlesnakes, copperheads and coral snakes. Kingsnakes are immune to their venom.
Kingsnakes first seize their prey with a bite, then kill the prey by constriction, and finally swallow the prey whole.
Before breeding, they emerge from brumation – how snakes survive rough weather conditions. In contrast to hibernation and when compared to normal levels of activity, an animal in brumation has less severe changes in body temperature, respiration and heart rate. In the wild, snakes brumate when the weather gets too cold to survive. During brumation, the snake's metabolism becomes lower and it remains inactive. If there is a warm day of weather, a snake can “wake up” and become active again. The snake may drink water during brumation, but it does not eat.
After emerging the snakes spend several weeks gaining weight and finding mates. Males quickly find and eagerly court ovulating females. Arizona mountain kingsnakes are oviparous, which means they lay eggs rather than bear live young.
After breeding, the female produces three to 20 eggs. Eggs are leathery and oval-shaped. The young hatch in 47 to 81 days. At birth, hatchlings are between 8 to 13 inches in length. Arizona mountain kingsnakes are sexually mature by 3 to 4 years of age
Their coloration is similar to that of the western coral snake (Micruroides euryxanthus), causing some experts to believe that the Arizona mountain kingsnake is a Batesian mimic. Batesian mimicry occurs when a harmless animal evolves to resemble another species which possess an anti-predator defense, such as venom.
Conservation:All reptiles play an important role in their ecosystem. Many snake species are threatened by habitat destruction and the pet trade.
They are important predators as snakes consume many animals that humans consider pests, including mice, rats and destructive species of insects.
They help to control disease and damage to crops by preying on these species.