Florida Kingsnake

Latin Name: Lampropeltis getula floridiana Order: Squamata Family: Colubridae

Considered an unofficial subspecies of kingsnake

Overview

Capron Park Zoo has been using a Florida Kingsnake as an Animal Ambassador for several years. It is an easily kept species that is forgiving of a variety of husbandry conditions, a good eater with a curious and non-aggressive temperament (unlike many of their kin). Ours is always very interested in what people are doing and recognizes keepers and handlers that regularly work with it. Because of her obvious curiosity and small girth (like many kingsnakes this species can reach around 5 feet in length but stays slender unless overfed), children find her fascinating without being threatening. 

Natural History Information 

Range and Habitat

This species is common throughout central and southern Florida. It is found in a variety of habitats, such as grasslands, oak woodlands, abandoned farms and plantations, swamps, canals and sugarcane fields

Longevity

Captive lifespan is 12-20 years, occasionally longer

Ecosystem Role

Voracious predator of small mammals, especially mice, that are pest species to crops. It will also hunt for birds, amphibians and smaller reptiles

Husbandry Information

Housing Requirements

Life Cycle Natural History Relevant Information 

  • This snake will eat pretty much any time food is presented, so a strict feeding schedule and monthly weight taking is advised
  • This species easily adapts to pre-killed prey
  • They are active snakes so a larger enclosure with multiple hides at different levels is recommended. 
  • Mostly diurnal to crepuscular

Habitat 

  • This species tends to eat more in the late winter and summer when it would naturally be coming out of torpor after any winter chills.
  • Capron Park Zoo – housed in a 40 gallon, front opening glass tank with PVC hide tubes hung on the glass at different levels, plus a hide on ground level.

Temperature, Humidity, Light Cycles

  • Temperature:70-85 degrees F
  • Humidity:50-75%
    • Capron Park Zoo – enclosure is misted heavily daily, substrate is kept slightly damp and a bowl large enough to soak is provided
  • Light: UVB light recommended but not required

Substrate

  • Capron Park Zoo – Cypress mulch, approximately 1-2 inches deep

Other General Housing Requirements or Management information

  • This species enjoys enrichment, especially moving hides, novel hides and anything with a novel scent.

Diet Requirements

Diet in the Wild 

  • Small mammals (especially mice), birds, amphibians and smaller reptiles
  • Tends to exhibit an appetite increase in late winter early spring (during mating season)
  • Will nearly ALWAYS eat if offered food so it’s important to be careful to no overfeed

Diet under human care

  • Pre-killed, thawed mice are readily accepted

Veterinary Concerns

  • Tendency to over-eat if given the chance
  • Regular fecals to check for internal parasites

Enrichment & Training

Enrichment 

Behavioral Relevant Information

  • This species is naturally curious and active – will readily investigate/explore anything new to their environment

Environmental Enrichment

  • Hanging tubes/hides in several diameters to give the snake a choice
    • Hang using Command hooks (or equivalent) so position of tubes can be moved around 
  • Will “dig in” substrate and hide under things like water dishes, so providing ground level hides is essential. These can be easily moved at will.

Behavioral Enrichment

  • Capron Park Zoo – Paper towel tubes, shavings from prey species (specifically chinchillas), caves, boxes, branches, hide boxes, live plants in pots with NO HOLES

Schedule 

  • Capron Park Zoo: 
    • Enrichment 3x/week 
    • Handling 3-5x/week

Other Enrichment Resources 

Training (Heading 3)

Behaviors Trained (Heading 4)

  • At this time no specific behaviors trained that are used in programming
    • Conditioned to come out of hide tube when touched several times for program handling

Reinforcers used & schedule of reinforcement 

  • None

Other

Social Housing/Colony Management

  • Kingsnakes are well known for eating other snakes, so it is best to house this species singly.

Colony or Breeding Management 

  • Capron Park Zoo: We do not breed this species at this time

Individual Identification

  • None

Programmatic Information

Messaging Themes 

  • Native species of the United States
  • Critical to natural pest control in farm areas
  • Cryptic coloration/camouflage

Threats and Conservation Status

  • IUCN: not evaluated/common in range
  • Threats – none. This species readily adapts to the presence of human activities

Interesting Natural History Information

  • Charismatic and non-venomous

Did you know…

  • During the hottest time of the year, this species will sometimes switch to more nocturnal activities to avoid the heat of the day.

Handling & Presentation Tips

  • Handler level: intermediate, volunteers allowed to handle
  • Does learn to recognize regular caretakers and handlers, so being consistent with who handles/cares for the animal really is helpful
    • When training new volunteers, having one handler there the snake is comfortable with tends to make the snake more confident and comfortable

Use Guidelines 

  • Capron Park Zoo:
    • Should be given a full 24 hours off (minimum) after feeding
    • May be used in multiple, back-to-back programs (no more than 4/day), with 24 hours off in between uses
    • We suggest that handlers NOT wear bracelets or watches when handling this snake as she likes to twine around them

Public Contact and Interaction Guidelines

  • Capron Park Zoo:
    • Presented for visitors to look at and touch (with instruction)
    • Hand sanitizer to those who touch (SOP for all reptiles in this facility)
    • Touching may be done from head to tail 
    • Visitors are not permitted to touch within 6” of head
    • If done with an experienced handler and with caution, may be held (with two hands with handler holding front end) by children age 10 and up

Transportation Tips 

  • Capron Park Zoo:
    • To transport: must be bagged and transported in cooler with secured lid. 
    • During winter, hot water battle MUST be added to cooler

Crating Techniques

  • Capron Park Zoo:
    • Bag in cotton bags that are tied off.
    • Transports are coolers (size depends on species) with lids that can be secured
    • To remove from enclosures: tap on enclosure/hide gently to let the snake know you are there
      • Move slowly and deliberately 
      • Hold with two hands
      • Control front half of snake so you are aware where the mouth/head is at ALL times
    • To remove from transport, same procedure

Temperature Guidelines

  • Temperature guidelines for Capron Park Zoo (Attleboro, MA):
    • Under 65 degrees F: no herps outside
    • 66-80 degrees F: 2-hour time limit; stay in sunny area
    • 80-90 degrees F: 1-hour time limit; stay in shady area
    • Over 90 degrees F: ½ hour time limit; stay in shady area

Acquisition Information

This species is not being bred in AZA facilities but is bred by private breeders. It is best to research private breeders and/or check the AZA list of zoo breeders to acquire this species.

(spreadsheet) 

 Look for specialty/exotic rescues such as:

  • Local reptile rescues may occasionally have this species. 
  • In FL, wildlife/reptile rehabilitation centers may have non-releasable animals for placement

Documents

Contributors and Citations

  •  Capron Park Zoo 

Photo Credits: 

Cleopatra, Florida Kingsnake emerging from her hide tube (2” PVC)