Eastern king snakes are found throughout North Carolina except in the highest regions of the Appalachian Mountains. These snakes are non-venomous and eat a variety of prey including small rodents, lizards, and eggs of many species. Prey are killed by constriction, which restricts blood flow and breathing. The name “King Snake” comes from their unusual habit of eating other snakes. King snakes are immune to the venom of pit vipers like rattlesnakes and copperheads, which allows them to safely hunt such dangerous prey.
Eastern king snakes are secretive snakes that are usually hidden under logs or rocks much of the day. If threatened, they can release a foul smelling musk to deter potential predators. The species is popular with collectors due to its docile nature and has been known to live 20 years in captivity.
Adult eastern king snakes are usually 3-5 feet long and females lay 10-20 eggs in the early summer. The eggs hatch after two months and the newly hatched snakes have the same color patterns as adults. Commonly, eastern king snakes are black with a narrow yellow or white pattern that resembles a chain. Hence another common name for this species is the “chain snake”.
The Outer Banks population of the eastern king snake is designated a species of special concern in North Carolina due to its limited numbers and continued threat by coastal development. Thankfully, much of the area is protected by the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.