6308 Monona dr, Monona WI 53716
CALIFORNIA KINGSNAKE CaresheetCommon Name: California Kingsnake
Scientific Name: Lampropeltis getula californiae
Origin: The west coast of the U.S., throughout most of California and in parts of Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, and Baja California.
Size: 3-4 feet
Lifespan: 20+ years
You will find many ways on the internet on "how to" take care of this animal. This care sheet is showing the way we found works best for us from our many years of experience of caring for this species.
California kingsnake babies can start out in enclosures as small as 10 gallons. At around a year old, you can increase the size. There are several kinds that work for kingsnakes, e.g., glass aquariums or any of the commercially available plastic-type reptile enclosures. For a yearling, you can step up to an enclosure that is at least 30" x 12" inches (like Zilla critter cage 20 Long) or go to the adult enclosure size. Adults do well in a tank at least 36" x 18" (Exo Terra Large, or Zilla 40 gal). If you use a glass tank, you'll want to provide a humid hide--that is, a hide that has some damp moss in it for extra humidity. They are also skilled escape artists. It's extremely important that your top is clipped or locked to the tank to prevent them from getting out.
You can use many types of bedding for your kingsnake. The ones that look and work the best are Zoo Med aspen, Zoo Med repti bark, Zilla jungle mix, Zoo Med eco earth, and Zoo Med forest floor. Spot clean the bedding whenever they defecate. You should only need to clean the whole thing out about once a month. Disinfect the enclosure and change the bedding at that time. Zoo Meds wipe out or vinegar and water both work good for cage cleaning.
LIGHTING AND HEAT
Kings originate from the western U.S. and they like it fairly warm, though they need to be able to cool off if they want to. Like all reptiles, they are dependent on external thermoregulation to control their body temperature. This essentially means you need to provide both a hot and cool side to your enclosure. All the lighting and heat elements should be on one side and the other will then be the cooler side. This way your snake can move back and forth between the different temperatures depending on its needs.
The hot side basking spot should be at 88-90 degrees. Put one hide there and another on the cooler side. The cool side can be between 75-80 degrees. At night it can drop down to 72 ambient temperature. It's a good idea to use a basking light and an under tank heat pad also. The heat pads are usually placed on the hot side with a hide over it. We recommend a Zoo Med heat mat or Exo Terra heat pad that stays on 24/7 to give them a little bit of supplemental heat during the night. Both of these are placed on the outside, underneath the enclosure. You want a heat pad that only covers half the tank (or less). The basking light should be housed in a good quality light dome like Exo Terra and Flukers that has a ceramic housing to tolerate high heat and an on/off switch.
Use a good quality temperature gauge too, like Zoo Meds digital temp gauge or Exo Terras Thermometer. Don't guess at it. You can also use a rheostat and/or timers to control your heat source. We do not recommend the use of hot rocks. They have a tendency to heat unevenly over too small an area and can cause serious burns.
Keep a non-porous water bowl in with your California king and make sure they always have clean water. Exo Terras water bowls or Flukers water bowls are good decorative choices or a good ceramic crock dish. Scrub the bowl at least once a week to keep bacteria slime from building up. If you maintain a humidity level of 50-60%, your snake will be able to shed properly. Hand misting is usually sufficient.
California kingsnakes, even juveniles, should not be kept together in the same enclosure due to the fact that they will eat other snakes.
Do not handle your king for several hours before you are going to feed it. We do recommend feeding in its own enclosure. Feeding in its home will not make your snake more aggressive or associate you with food. California kings are generally a very docile snake. If you are worried about your pet associating food with you, get yourself a good snake hook. Gently hook your snake out of its enclosure when you want to hold it. Check out these hooks: Exo Terra collapsible hook for babies and larger hooks for adults. Using a snake hook when you take your pet out will greatly reduce the chances of you being bit from a feeding response. If you don't have a hook and are still worried about picking up your snake, reach around and pick your snake up from behind, rather than from the front. This way your hand is not coming at its face.
King snakes have a faster metabolism than say a boa. So feeding 1-2 times a week is fine. 1 rodent of appropriate size or several smaller rodents at a time works. This means the girth of the rodent should not exceed 1 1/2 times the girth of the snake (at it's biggest point, not his neck size) Do not handle your snake for at least 24 hours after it has eaten. Snakes in general tend not to eat when they are in shed. Just wait to feed until your king sheds.
California kingsnakes are a very popular pet. From their banded dark brown or black to white or yellow, the variety of colors and patterns found in kings is truly amazing. They are generally friendly and easy to care for.
When holding your pet, always remember to support your snakes body. Once a king realizes that you will not hurt it, they often seem to enjoy being handled. Relax and give your snake time to get used to you. Avoid touching the top of its head. Unless it knows and trusts you, touching the top of the head will cause it to jerk away. The fast movement is called being "head shy" and tends to scare a lot of new snake owners. Most kings will get over it with gentle handling.
Give your snake at least a day to settle in to its new home before handling. Start slow and gradually increase the amount of time you have your snake out. Remember your new pet's life is in your hands. So please take care of it properly.
With their cannibalistic instincts, the only time two California kingsnakes should share one cage is during the breeding of adults. Keep a close eye on them for aggressive behavior.