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Utah Mountain Kingsnake

Range:

This snake’s range extends discontinuously from east-central Nevada, and central and western Utah, at elevations of 2,800 to 9,100 feet. Large areas of unsuitable arid habitat often surround occupied areas. Utah Mountain King snakes are found north of the Colorado River, while Arizona mountain kingsnakes are found south of the Colorado River in Arizona

Habitat:

This species of kingsnake inhabits mountains in pinyon-juniper woodlands, yellow pine and pine-fir forests. Often found near streams or springs and in and around rotting logs or rocks. In Utah, they have been found in sagebrush, Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir plant communities.

Characteristics:

The Utah mountain kingsnake is a medium sized snake with red, black, and white bands that encircle the body. There are generally 42-57 white rings on the body and 9-10 on the tail. Utah specimens are quite variable. In general, they tend to be darker than Arizona specimens and have more black rings that widen across the red rings dorsally. Fifty percent or more of the white body rings extend unbroken across the belly. The red rings do not contact the white rings. Their face is white, with a distinct black mask; the first white ring encircles the head, starting behind the mask. The scales are smooth.

Behavior:

Utah mountain kingsnakes prefer low temperatures to high temperatures. They live beneath the ground to cool their body surfaces. Occasionally, they are found basking in the sun with their tails hidden underneath the ground but generally they remain well hidden by undergrowth.

This snake is a constrictor but often vibrates tail as a “bluff.”

King snakes use constriction to kill their prey and tend to be opportunistic when it comes to their diet. This snake is secretive and occurs in rough terrain that often lacks good access for humans. King snakes can and do eat venomous snakes that occur in their habitat because they are resistant to their venom. However, they are not necessarily immune or resistant to the venom of snakes from different localities.

Reproduction:

This snake species breeds from mid-March to early July to enhance survival of hatchlings. Females lay an average of three to six eggs per cycle, which hatch within 66 to 83 days. Hatchlings size range from eight to 11 inches. During winter, reproduction activity is low because hatchlings cannot survive in the cold winter temperatures. The striped and banded phases often occur within offspring of the same clutch of eggs.

Interesting Facts:

Both the Utah Mountain King snake and the Arizona Mountain King snake (Lampropeltis pyromelana pyromelana) are sub-species of the Sonora Mountain King snake. The three species closely resemble each other, and are often killed because their coloration mimics the venomous Coral Snake. There are several mnemonic rhymes to help people distinguish between the coral snake and is non-venomous look-alikes, such as: if red touches black, its OK, Jack. If red touches yellow, you’re a dead fellow.

Conservation:

Utah Mountain Kingsnakes are state-protected in Utah and Nevada and may not be collected. They are also illegal to collect in National Parks. The overcollection of snakes including kingsnakes is a significant threat to their continued survival in the wild. The Utah Mountan kingsnake is under varying degrees of protection in all parts of its range in the United States.

Utah Mountain Kingsnake
Native Utah Animal
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Range
Class: reptile
Order: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Genus: Lampropeltis
Species: pyromelana infralabialis
Length: lengths of up to 3.5 feet
Wild Diet: This species preys on lizards and rodents as well as birds. They have well adapted belly muscles that allow them to climb trees where they prey on birds in their nests.
Predators: Carnivorous mammals including raccoons, weasels and foxes as well as birds such as raptors and other snakes including rattlesnakes prey them upon.
USFWS Status: Not Listed but Utah mountain kingsnakes are state-protected in Utah and Nevada and may not be collected.
Where at the Zoo? Off Exhibit: Education Animal Facility


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