Red and black is safe for Jack is the first thing that springs to mind when speaking about the kingsnake. Some king snakes (the Scarlet King Snake) looks very similar to the coral snake, although kingsnakes has their yellow band on them surrounded by black bands. The rhyme for the Coral Snake is if read touches yellow, kills a fellow. Kingsnakes are harmless and closely related to milk snakes, which are in fact king snakes.

Kingsnakes are called king snakes because of their habit of eating other snakes. The phenomenon is referred to as ophiophagy in the biological literature. King snakes are constrictors and non-venomous, and their preferred diet, besides other snakes, is rodents, frogs, birds and their offspring (also as eggs.).

Suffocation vs. Cardiac arrest

It has been shown (Moon, 2000) that the King Snake can detect specific movements of its prey during constriction. It detects both ventilator and circulatory movements. It works in such a way that when the heart rate of the prey increases, so does the strength applied by King Snake.

That is, the more the prey struggle the more effort is put into killing it by the snake. The pressure induced by the snake is according to the cited investigation so strong that it is likely that mammalian prey not always die from suffocation, but die before that and from immediate cardiac and or circulatory arrest.

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Kingsnakes are curious and makes an excellent pet. They should be fed with dead rodents to avoid them being damaged by the rodents teeth.

At California herps you can find many beautiful king snake photographs. A webpage called kingsnake.com has developed into being the leading community on the internet for snake enthusiasts.

Reference

Moon, B.R. The mechanics and muscular control of constriction in gopher snakes (Pituophis melanoleucus) and a king snake (Lampropeltis getula) Journal of Zoology 252 pp. 83-98 Part 1 (2000).

Garter Snake

Garter Snakes are also known as Garden Snakes, and are one of the most succesful snakes in North America. It is common throughout Northern America, Canada, Mexico, Central America, and is even found in Alaska. The fact that a cold blooded snake such as the Garter Snake can live and thrive in Alaska speaks to its versatility as a snake and its abilities to adjust to extreme conditions.

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Coloration of the garden snakes varies with geographic location, but there is only little variation when it comes to the often three yellow and red or white stripes on its back. Females are often significantly larger than males; up to 50 percent larger.

Between the stripes there are differently shaped spots. The stripes on its back have given the Garter Snake its name. The colors make people think of garters. The garter snake is a relatively small snake with most species only reaching a length a length of 2 feet (60 cm) while other species, like the endangered (in some parts of California1) Thamnophis grigas, can reach a length of almost five feet.

The Garter snake eats all kinds of small animals, including salamanders, larvae, insects, snails, and a range of other insects and small rodents. They are immune to the toxins often present in toads, newts and other amphibians, and they that are eaten without much hesitation. All food is swallowed whole. It’s saliva may subdue its prey slightly, but apart from that prey is swallowed while still being awake.

This capability of dealing with poisonous animals opens more niches for the Garter Snake, as they can utilize food resources other snakes and reptiles cannot.

The following video offers some background information about the Garter Snake.

Habitat

Garter snakes prefer to live near streams and during hibernation they hibernate together in hibernacula. In general they can be found anywhere there is a pond or stream nearby. Also, it is not uncommon to find them in backyards and parks.

Garter Snakes will tend to coil when threatened, and will sometimes excrete a ill-smelling substance from a gland near their anus. They are not threatened and many people keep them as pets.

Life-Cycle

As soon as the garden snake emerges from its hibernation it starts searching for a mate, unless the females haven’t emerged from their hibernation yet. The male will impregnate several females if it gets the opportunity. The attraction between sexes is controlled by a hormone called pheromone. The male are able to excrete this hormone which will attract the females. The gestation period is 2-3 months but before that females are able to store male sperm for some period. Up to 75 newborn snakes can be hatched from the eggs which are abandoned by the mother as soon they are laid. Newly hatched Garter Snakes are on their own immediately when they hatch.

References

1Dickert C Giant garter snake surveys at some areas of historic occupation in the grassland ecological area, Merced Co. and Mendota Wildlife Area, Fresno Co., California, California Fish and Game 91 (4): 255-269 ( 2005)

Resources

Garter Snake Forum

Corn Snake

The Corn snake is often referred to as the red Rat Snake, and it belongs to the Elaphe genus. It can grow as large as 5 feet (1.5 m) and is believed to reach an age of 30 years if kept in captivity. They are found throughout most south eastern and central parts of the USA.

Its name is derived from the observation of the snake hunting mice in corn fields.

Corn Snakes are popular pets and you can find many places where corn snakes can be bought.

Habitat

It prefers to live near fields, forest openings or areas with a lot of potential prey, such as an abandoned building.

During the daytime they hide under rocks, logs and beneath debris and loose tree. They are nocturnal hunters and generally a shy snake.

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Diet

Rodents are by far their favorite prey, however they may search for bird eggs or bats seeking shelter in tree crevices. Small species (young snakes) may seek other prey like small lizards and insects, but when they grow larger their favorite dish is mice.

The corn snake as a pet

Due to its non aggressive behavior and the fact that it’s not venomous the corn snake is a common pet. It can however be difficult to meet the demands of an adult corn snake. Therefore serious research about the ecology of the corn snake must be conducted before the actual purchase of one. At least it takes a terrarium (or vivarium) with a volume of no less than 20 gallons to house this snake.

Resources

Herpetologist in the UK about corn snakes

Some people keep the Burmese python and other python snakes as pets even though they often reach a length of 15-20 feet (5-6½ meters) and can weigh up to two hundred pounds (100 kg). Such large animals are quite expensive to keep as they demand a lot of space.

Some python owners are foolish enough to let their pythons into the wilderness once they grow too large to be kept in their homes. In a state like Florida this had led to the concern that pythons are taking over the top of the food chain from alligators. There have even been reported cases of 4-5 meter pythons eating alligators of up to 6 feet.

If kept in a minimal area they will try to escape and because of their strength they will often succeed escaping. In general, python snakes are not venomous however they are called constrictors due to the fact that they kill their prey by asphyxiation.

Some species of the python are reported to be larger than others. Despite lacking fangs, the snakes have small teeth and two claws that can be found near their cloacal opening. An interesting fact that people seem to forget about these snakes is that they are the descendents of their ancient ancestors – the lizard

The natural habitat of Burmese Pythons

Its natural habitat is grassland or scrubland and what can be called «open jungle». Its natural range is Burma, of course, India, Thailand and Malaysia. It may live close to human settlements as this offers opportunities for more prey. The Burmese Python is a threatened species.

How pythons handle their prey

The Burmese Python and other pythons are non-venomous. They kill their prey by choking or by suffocation by hindering their prey from breathing air. In a matter of minutes the prey will either faint or die from lack of oxygen.

Diet

The favorite prey of the python are rodents and all other kind of small mammals. The snakes eat prey of varying size, even those of a larger size. A sad story is the killing of a 15 year old boy in Colorado by a python. The family had pythons as pets and left their son at home while going for a ride. When they came home the python had killed their son. The python was only 8 feet long which gives an impression of the snake%s strength. You can read the full story here. At the same site you can find other dreadful stories. When they eat very large meals such as goats, sheep etc. their maximum metabolic rate is not reached immediately but up to 2 days after the consumption1, which is quite remarkable.

Life Cycle

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Females should be around 10 feet (3 meters) before they are ready to breed. Males, which are generally smaller, only need to be 8 feet long before they are ready to mate. In captivity it is well known that keeping the female in a cold place will trigger her ovulation. The mating lasts for several hours. Two too three months after mating the female will usually lay 15 to 25 eggs. She will coil around her eggs and shiver to keep the eggs warm. The eggs hatch in about two months and the young pythons are born.

These snakes can live for a very long time, especially when kept in captivity

References

1Secor S.M., Diamond J.,Determinants of the postfeeding metabolic response of Burmese pythons, Python molurus Physiological Zoology 70(2), page 202-212 (1997)

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