Prairie Kingsnakes / Yellow-bellied Kingsnake Care Sheet

Scientific Facts

Common NamePrairie Kingsnakes / Yellow-Bellied
Scientific NameLampropeltis calligaster
Originsoutheastern and midwestern parts of the United States primarily Texas, Florida, Maryland, Nebraska, and Kentucky
Habitatgrasslands, hayfields, crop fields, and coffee plantations
Dietsmall mammals such as rodents, lizards, and birds, or other reptile eggs. They also eat other snakes that are smaller for them.
LifespanWild: 12-16 years Captivity: 20-30 years
Size75-102 cm (2.5-3.3 ft) and has a weight of 1-5 kg (2.2- 3.5 lbs)

Physical Description


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Prairie kingsnake or yellow-bellied kingsnake is a nonvenomous snake but often mistaken as a rattlesnake because of its appearances, such as their color and markings. It has a skin coloration of light brown with hints of dark grey and dark brown markings all over its body. Some do not have overpowering markings throughout their bodies, and only appears to have a solid brown color. 

There is a black spot located on their heads, and there are two black stripes on their stripes from their neck until their tails. These snake species are characterized by their round head, medium-sized robust body with a short tail. 

Where it is Seen?


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Their population is spread out throughout the southeastern and midwestern parts of the United States, primarily Texas, Florida, Maryland, Nebraska, and Kentucky.


Prairie Kingsnake (Lampropeltis Callister Callister)

It is usually seen in Virginia, Nebraska, Florida, and Texas. They have a coloration of light brown to gray skin appearance with reddish-brown markings all over its body. Because of their appearance and habitation of why they are mistaken as the venomous rattlesnake.

Mole Kingsnake (Lampropeltis Callister rhombomaculata)

This subspecies is seen all over the mid-Atlantic State and parts of the southeastern United States. They have a light brown skin color with a reddish-orange marking all over its body. It is a nonvenomous constrictor that habitats open areas such as pinelands or pasture lands.

South Florida Mole Kingsnake (Lampropeltis Callister occipitolineata)

This snake species is primarily seen in Peninsula only. It has a skin color of grayish to tan orange with ocular stripes if about black or dark brown markings throughout its creamy belly. 



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These species are found mostly in open areas such as grasslands, most especially hay fields, crop fields, and coffee plantations. They thrive on rocky hillsides, old rock walls, or on other mammals burrows near the riverside where there is open grassland. They would live in loose soils that are quite near in bodies of water. They are secretive reptiles that love hiding within pastures.  



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This snake eats different kinds of small mammals such as rodents, lizards, and birds, or other reptile eggs. They prefer warm-blooded prey. They have the ability to sense their prey by means of their scents and follow those directions with their tongue. Since they are a constrictor, they suffocate their prey to death by breaking or crushing their bones. Aside from small mammals, they also have the ability to eat other snakes, even those with a venom such as rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, and copperheads.

Behavior and Temperament


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These types of snakes are secretive, but they can adapt to different kinds of habitat; that is why they can also reside in barnyards, abandoned buildings, sawdust piles, and barrier beaches. In times of a threatening situation, they exhibit unusual adaptations like that if rattlesnakes where they shake their body, specifically their tails with a hiss familiar with that of rattlesnake’s rattle and appear to have white spots on its body. To potentially escape a predator, they would usually flatten their bodies. If they are handled, they will usually excrete a foul-smelling secretion musk. 

Breeding and Reproduction

Prairie Kingsnake is oviparous with a mating season for the months of April or early spring. Unlike other snakes that have multiple partners, these species only have one partner for life. The female’s pheromone secretions during sexual maturity make it possible for the males to detect her in the surroundings. The females make a nest on fallen leaves and other debris such as logs, sawdust piles, or under the rocks. They usually have an average number of eggs around 8-17 eggs. The juveniles tend to have the same markings as that of an adult, and they are born independently. 

Size and Weight

Prairie Kingsnake does not show any differences when it comes to their size and weight for both males and females. Their average size ranges between 75-102 cm (2.5-3.3 ft) and has a weight of 1-5 kg (2.2- 3.5 lbs).


In the wild, they have an average lifespan of 12-16 years while in captivity, they have about 20-30 years in the right conditions.



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During the shedding process, it is not advisable to handle them because of their temperament. Beginner breeder would see the snake’s condition before shedding alarming because of their dull skin and blue eyes, but these are just normal; it will go back to its normal condition after 1-2 days and expect that the shedding process will take place. It is important to observe the way they shed skin; it should be removed all at once. If the skin is being removed in patches then there is something wrong with the temperature and humidity level.

To make sure that there will be no problem in the shedding process, make sure that your pet is always hydrated so that there will be no problem in excreting a lymphatic fluid that will aid in the shedding process. Make sure that their environment is also moist by spraying water on the sides of their tank. Once the skin has been removed, take it out from the tank immediately so as not to cause bacterial buildup. 

Common Disease/Illnesses


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Like humans, snakes are also prone to dehydration due to a lack of moisture in the body. There are two ways for these snakes to re-hydrate, its either through soaking in a basin of water or by means of drinking water. In captivity, beauty snakes live near bodies of water so that they can easily re-dehydrate themselves as needed. In captivity, the supply for clean and fresh water is important. When the snake is dehydrated, it is impossible for them to shed their skin properly and the snake is dehydrated for days, it could be fatal.


This disease means the abnormal shedding of the snake’s skin. It could be a sign of dehydration or other infectious diseases. You may need to detect the reason why the snake sheds its skin abnormally so that you can attend to the first aid immediately. If loss of moisture is the only problem, you can spray in water in their tank to facilitate the shedding. Dysecdysis is fatal if not attended to immediately.


There are different kinds of stressors that can affect the snake; some of these stressors are improper handling and poor husbandry. If you would take this snake in captivity, make sure that all factors that will affect its growth are always at the optimal level. 

Internal parasites/worms

This usually happens when we give them dirty food and water. It is advisable to give them frozen foods if there is no way for you to give them fresh food like newly killed rodents. Avoid giving them food that is spoiled and is already infested with other parasites. If the snake is infested with parasites or worms internally, this could affect the immunity of the snake against other illnesses or diseases.

Scale rot/blisters

Your snake is prone to this disease if it is exposed to a dirty and wet environment for a long period of time. When your snake drinks water or soaks its body in the basin, it can’t be avoided that the substrates in the tank will get wet, to avoid having a wet area where the snake will stay, clean the tank immediately and dry all the substrate before returning it back.

Parasite Infestations

This is common to almost snake, whether mammal, amphibian, or reptile that was taken into captivity due to poor sanitation and unhygienic housing of your pets. Snakes get infected easily when they are taken outside of their tank and was placed in a dirty environment and were returned to its housing uncleaned. You can get rid of this by cleaning your pet’s house at least once every two weeks and bathing them regularly.

Preventing Illnesses

It is just normal for your snake to get sick, but what is not normal is if this illness will hinder your pet in living a normal life that will affect its activities such as eating, climbing, basking, drinking water, and crawling. Every time your snake gets sick, their immunity is lowered, making it hard for them to recover especially if not attended to as soon as possible. When you notice that there is something wrong with the health of your snake, you need to seek advice from your veterinarian.

Aside from providing the snake with their needs such as housing, substrates, food, water, and optimum light and temperature exposure, it is also important to attend to their health needs. Before taking it into captivity, you must be knowledgeable in determining if your pet experiences something unusual so as not to aggravate their health condition

Captive Breeding


<p>In choosing for a rat snake to be taken into captivity, you must check if it is healthy. You can easily determine a healthy snake through its skin and eyes. Make sure that there is no excess skin from the shedding process and make sure that its eyes are clear. When you notice that the eyes are cloudy, that could be a potential sign that the snake is suffering from some illnesses.<br></p>

<p>It is important to choose a snake from a reputable breeder because it means that the snake is somehow trained to be in captivity and that it has a clear background, you would know that what you are purchasing is a pure rat snake. <br></p>

<h2>Availability-Where to Get One</h2>

<p>Prairie Kingsnakes are readily available at pet shops, online reptile stores, reptile exhibits, and expos, as well as direct breeders. It is important to adopt pets that are captive-bred snakes to ensure their health and so that it is a parasite-free snake. You will also get detailed information about the age, history, and genetics of the snake if acquired in a pet shop or online reptile store.</p>

<h2>How To Care Reptile as a Pet?</h2>

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You can place these snakes in aquariums, glass terrariums, or plastic cages designed for reptiles. It is advisable to make use of housing that is durable, easy to clean, and plenty of floor space. Your prairie kingsnake grows long; that is why it is important to invest in a big tank even though you are starting with hatchlings. You need to make sure that their housing becomes a habitat where their natural environment is mimic. 

There should be a climbing tree or a log where it can climb, and there should be a deep substrate for them to burrow. Your pet needs to move so that they could still have a way to exercise to avoid different health problems. Aside from providing them with the things that their natural environment has, as a breeder, it is also your responsibility to make sure that their housing clean at all times because if they stay in unhygienic conditions, it may cause health problems that may lead to extreme illness or death.

Substrate and Accessories

These snakes are naturally shy, active, and alert. A technique for them not to be aggressive is that you should give provide their housing with a hide-box. They also climb once in a while, that is why you need to place some barriers such as logs or small branches. Perfect choice for their substrates is bark shards, cypress, aspen chips, or fir. Also, make preparations for the hatchlings if you have decided to breed. You may need to have a large box full of sphagnum moss.

Food and Water

In giving your snake their food, it is a guide to give them food that is about or less than the size of their head. Most foods that are given to them are mice, rats, and lizards. It is advisable to have a shifting meal plan like, for example, this week you’ll give them mice and the next weeks, you’ll give them frozen birds, etc. It is also advisable to add vitamins and minerals to their meals to avoid any deficiencies.  This snake has a fast metabolism; that is why you can feed them more often in a week.

There should be a large basin where your pet can drink and soak themselves. Make sure to always change the water regularly so that they won’t be able to drink it. You’ll notice that they’ll soak themselves once in a while as they shed their skin. A water supply should always be available to ensure that they are always moisturized.

Lighting and temperatures

These reptiles should be kept at temperatures at least 90-95 degrees Fahrenheit. They may not need to bask, but they still need to be exposed to light because it is helpful for proper digestion. When their tank is dim, it is more susceptible to pest infestations, especially if the lid of their tank is not properly secured. The lighting equipment can also help increase the temperature, which is favorable for them. Make sure to place the lighting equipment not too close because it may damage the skin of the snake.


These snakes are not just like other snakes that can be handled easily. You may need to have the proper training for you to handle it correctly and safely. They cannot only bite you, but they can aggressively tear your skin. You might have a swelling and severely wounded snake bite. It is advisable to wear gloves every time you hold them in a firm manner.


In the wild, the prairies kingsnakes are usually found in semi-arid conditions that have very little moisture in the air this means that you will not be having problems maintaining moisture in their housing. A bowl of water in their place is already sufficient to make sure that the moisture level is maintained. You can also spray in water inside their housing to keep the environment moist.

Conservation Status


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Prairie kingsnakes are not considered as an endangered species, but because there are already destructive activities that are happening around their habitat, such as illegal logging, deforestation, and due to climate change, sooner or later these types of snakes will soon be erased. So as a preventive measure, there are private sectors that would breed these snakes in their facility and when the eggs turned into hatchlings, they are taken back into the wild. 

They also inhabit places near human beings where they are hunted for sale or for food. Illegal hunting of these snakes are also not allowed, when they are caught, they may be imprisoned, or they might face some charges. 

FAQ Section

Is a yellow-bellied Kingsnake poisonous?

They are nonvenomous snakes that kill their prey by means of constricting.

Are prairie king rattlesnakes aggressive?

They are not generally aggressive, but like other snakes, they show aggressive behaviors when they are threatened, and they even bite painfully.

Do prairie kingsnakes eat other snakes?

They are known to feed on snakes that are smaller to them, even the venomous ones.

Are prairie kingsnakes bad for your yard?

They are often seen on farmlands and other open areas where there is vegetation.  They are helpful because they feed on destructive rodents and other mammals that feed on your crops. 

Can they hear sounds?

They do not have visible ears, but they are good at sensing vibrations and smell, that is why they know if there is prey or predator.

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