Nature Mikey

Nature Mikey

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Species of the Day: Arizona Mountain Kingsnake

Scientific Name: Lampropeltis pyromelana
Family: Colubridae
Adult Size: Up to 42 inches in length 
Range: Wooded areas of Chihuahua and Sonora in Mexico, southwestern New Mexico, north through central Arizona and in mountains in Utah 
Habitat: Usually a rock-dwelling species, rarely going far from their dens in rocky crevices, usually found on the edge of wooded areas near a permanent water source.

    The Arizona Mountain Kingsnake is found in several distinct populations in the mountains of Utah, Arizona, southwestern New Mexico and adjacent areas of northern Mexico. Three subspecies are currently recognized, with a fourth subspecies (L.p. woodini) recently being synonymized with the nominate species. This fourth form is still maintained in pure lineage my many breeders and hobbyists. Currently accepted subspecies include:
L.p. pyromelana (Arizona Mountain Kingsnake)
L.p. infralabialis (Utah Mountain Kingsnake)
L.p. knoblochi (Chihuahua or Tarahumara Mountain Kingsnake)
L.p. pyromelana var. "woodini" (Huachuca Mountain Kingsnake)
    Due to their ease of care and calm temperaments, the Arizona Mountain Kingsnake makes a great starter snake for people just getting into the hobby. These snakes rarely attempt to bite, but may nip if handled improperly. Handle gently, without pinching or squeezing, supporting the body and letting the snake to move through your hands. Any typical aquarium with a good sturdy top will do just fine for them, with a 15 to 20 gallon tank being adequate for an adult. Hatchlings are quite sensitive to dehydration and will do best in smaller "critter keepers". Due to their secretive natures, they need adequate hiding areas to feel secure. Rock cracks and crevices are preferred over the more spacious hide boxes. Many keepers use the clay plant pot drainage saucers with great success. A variety of substrates can be used; aspen bedding, newspaper and Care Fresh being the most popular with keepers. Paper towels may be used with hatchling snakes. The substrate should be spot cleaned every day and changed completely with a full disinfection of the tank every week. As with all reptiles, avoid cedar or pine shavings.
     Hatchling Arizona Mountain Kingsnakes have a reputation for being difficult feeders. In truth, they are easy feeders, we just offer them the wrong food. Frequently, a stubborn hatchling will require a pinkie mouse scented with a lizard (skinks or fence lizards tend to work best) before accepting it. More rarely, they will refuse to eat anything but the lizard itself. After a few lizards, you can move them on to scented pinkies and then wean them off on regular pinkies, but keep in mind that this process will take some patience. Once they are on an all rodent diet, hatchlings can be fed once a week, increasing the size of the meal as the snake grows. One or two juvenile mice every ten to fourteen days will maintain the largest adults. Investing in a captive bred specimen can help in avoiding all the difficulties in feeding. After several generations of captive breeding, these feeding problems are have for the most part disappeared. Fresh water in a tub large enough for the snake to completely submerge itself should be provided at all times. Thermal gradients can be provided by a simple heating pad over one half of the cage so that the snake can properly regulate its temperature. A gradient of 70 to 80 degrees F is best, letting the temperatures get into the high 60s at night. These snakes need no special lighting. Many specimens will refuse food during the winter months and go into hibernation. They can be kept at 50 to 55 degrees F for two to three months and then resume feeding in the spring.

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