Lampropeltis nigritis / Black Mexican kinsnake - Care

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Specification Description
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Subfamily: Colubrinae
Scientific name: Lampropeltis nigritis
Dutch name: Zwarte koningslang
English name: Mexican black kingsnake
Average age: 12+ years
Reproduction: oviparous / egglaying
Status: Non threatened
Cites: non

Lampropeltis (getula) nigritus

This (almost) completely black snake is a feast for the eyes. They offer a nice contrast against all the richly coloured species within the same genus. They are easy to care for and have an appetite to suit a Kingsnake.


General appearance:  Immediately striking in this species is its pitch-black iridescent appearance. Sometimes with newly hatched animals there can still be seen traces of white in the form of small spots between the scales and the abdomen but these disappear after a few sheds. They have a typical body type that fits the genus. The head is relatively short and strong and just slightly differentiated from the body. The body itself is strong and relatively broad, appropriate to a snake that can be cannibalistic. On average this snake will measure 110 to 130cm long.


Origin and habitat:  This is species found in southern Arizona, Sonora West and North / West Sinaloa Mexico. Their habitat consists mainly of desert - dry, lots of rocks and stones and rare plants.


Housing:  Please note; Lampropeltis nigritis is like many king and milk snakes cannibalistic. This means that housing several individuals together is strongly discouraged. There are hobbyists who successfully keep animals together unfortunately, this often (eventually) goes wrong and one of the occupants eats the other.

Young animals can be cared for in a small terrarium of 30x30x30 or in a flat Exo-Terra faunabox (PT2310). A good feeding animal will grow rapidly and soon outgrows this temporary setup. After that they can be housed directly a terrarium. One Mexican black kinsnake needs a terrarium that is at least 80x40x40cm. But a bigger enclosure will suit this active snake better.

As a substrate one can use a dry, dust free substrate such as Zoomed Aspen bedding or fine beech chips or for example reptibark. This species likes to dig so keep this in mind considering the thickness of the substrate layer. Offer various hiding places in the warm and cool side. Although this snake is not a real climber they will when such opportunity is offered. Heating can be done by means of a heating strip or basking spot. Create a cool and warm zone so that an animal can thermo-regulate between these microclimates. Daytime temperatures need to be around or above 25C on the cool side and 28-30C on the hot side with a warmer hotspot (35C). At night additional heating is not required and the temperatures may lower. Illuminate 13 to 12 hours per day in the summer season. Please note that all snakes but certainly Kingsnake species are real escape artists. So if you have a terrarium with sliding windows the space between the windows can be enough for the smaller individuals to escape through. It is therefore wise to place a silicone sealing strip between the windows and thus closing the gap to prevent escape.


Diet:  Young Lampropeltis nigritis normally start easily on thawed pinky mice. Although they naturally mainly feed on small lizards like skinks. If you have a young that does not directly eat pinky mice. You can try to cut open the skull of the baby mouse or lubricate the mouse with tuna water or a lizard. This technique will convince almost all food refusers and then quickly transfer to unscented rodents. Ones they feed there is very little stopping them and the food response of these snakes is very high which is a big part of the fun keeping these Lampropeltis. Young animals can be fed every 5 days, from one year old a prey per week is sufficient. Adult Lampropeltis nigritus can best be fed with adult mice or baby / weaner rats. You can also feed small hamsters and softfurr rats.


Hibernation:  Naturally these snakes will go into hibernation. Would you like to offer this to your kingsnake then let the snake fast for three weeks under normal conditions to be sure that no leftover food remains in the intestinal tract. Remains of the digestive tract in combination with the low metabolism and at the low temperatures of the hibernation can cause mayor intestinal problems such as rotting etc. During this time, you can shorten the hours of light from 12 to 8 hours. Then the snake can be placed in hibernation at 12 to 10C. This hibernation is not necessary but is part of the natural process and promoting reproduction. Often people skip hibernation in the first year of life of the snake.

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