Mexican Black Kingsnake

Lampropeltis getula nigrita

Last updated: July 9, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© BikerPhoto/

A subspecies of the common kingsnake


Mexican Black Kingsnake Scientific Classification

Scientific Name
Lampropeltis getula nigrita

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Mexican Black Kingsnake Conservation Status

Mexican Black Kingsnake Locations

Mexican Black Kingsnake Facts

rats, mice, birds, other snakes
Fun Fact
A subspecies of the common kingsnake
Distinctive Feature
Very dark brown with irridescent scales
Litter Size
Three to 24
Diet for this Fish
Common Name
Mexican black kingsnake

Mexican Black Kingsnake Physical Characteristics

20 to 30 years
3 to 4 feet

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“A subspecies of the common kingsnake.”

The Mexican black kingsnake is one of the most popular snakes to keep as a pet due to how easy it is to take care of and the patent-leather beauty of its black scales. Even when it’s not in the house, residents of Arizona and the Sonoran Desert are grateful that it eats its share of rodents and rattlesnakes. Read on to learn more about this reptile.

Four Mexican Black Kingsnake Amazing Facts

Here are four amazing facts about Mexican black kingsnakes.

  • The scales have an irridescent sheen to them and if examined under light reveal all the colors of the rainbow.
  • It’s called the kingsnake because it comes from a family of snakes that eat other snakes, including venomous ones. The Mexican black kingsnake also eats birds, eggs, lizards and rodents.
  • Wild Mexican black kingsnakes sometimes breed with the California kingsnake or the desert kingsnake.
  • Because it is ophiophagous, a pet Mexican black kingsnake shouldn’t be kept in an enclosure with other snakes, even those of its own species.

Where To Find Mexican Black Kingsnakes

The Mexican black kingsnake is found in the Sonoran Desert and parts of Arizona in habitats where there is lush vegetation. It is popular as a pet and can live happily and healthily if it is housed in a large size tank or enclosure and its dietary and environmental requirements are taken care of.

Mexican Black Kingsnake Scientific Name

The scientific name of the Mexican black kingsnake is Lampropeltis getula nigrita. The Lampropeltis genus includes a great variety of snakes, including the rainbow colored scarlet kingsnake and milk snake. Lampropeltis comes from the Greek words lampros, which means “shiny” and pelte which means “shield.” This refers to the porcelain-like gloss of the snake’s dorsal scales. Getula refers to the Gaetuli of North Africa, who wore either clothes with a chain pattern or chain mail that reminded people of the snake’s shiny scales. Nigrita is Latin for “black color.”

The Different Types of Mexican Black Kingsnake

The Mexican black kingsnake is itself a subspecies of the common kingsnake, L. getula. This makes it one of nine subspecies. The others are the California kingsnake, the Florida kingsnake, the eastern kingsnake, the speckled kingsnake, the black kingsnake, the desert kingsnake, Brooks’ kingsnake and the Apalachicola Lowlands kingsnake.

Mexican Black Kingsnake Population & Conservation Status

The exact numbers of the Mexican black kingsnakes are not known, but the snake seems to be fairly common in its range. Its conservation status is not evaluated. However, conservationists consider the parent species, the common kingsnake, under concern due to the declining numbers of the Florida kingsnake.

How To Identify Mexican Black Kingsnakes: Appearance and Description

mexican black kingsnake on grass

Mexican black kingsnakes have iridescent scales

© Gualda

These beautiful snakes are deep, dark brown all over, both dorsally and ventrally. The scales are wonderfully irridescent under the light, and if you look, you will see flashes of rainbow colors. Baby snakes have yellow spots, but these fade and are gone by the time the snake is mature. Full grown snakes are 3 to 4 feet in length and weigh 3 to 4 pounds. They have smallish oval heads that aren’t distinct from the neck, small black eyes and a slender body.

Mexican Black Kingsnake Venom: How Dangerous Are They?

Mexican black kingsnakes lack venom and are not dangerous to humans. They kill their prey by constricting them to death as opposed to envenomating them. They make good pets and can live as long as 30 years with the proper care.

Mexican Black Kingsnake Behavior and Humans

Mexican black kingsnakes are, like other kingsnakes, diurnal. This means they’re active during the day, especially during earliest spring to late fall. After this, they hibernate in protected places, including tree stumps, hollow logs, burrows, crevices and caves. They are known to bask in the sun to regulate their body temperature, but they mostly hide under fallen leaves. The snake glides gracefully over the ground but can also climb trees and is a competent swimmer.

Mexican black kingsnakes are known to be docile, but if they are handled when they don’t want to be, they may discharge foul-smelling substances or bite. Because no venom is present in the bite, the bite is harmless and simply needs to be cleaned and dressed.

Even if it’s not kept as a pet, the Mexican black kingsnake is beneficial, for it keeps down the population of rodents and dangerous rattlesnakes. L. g. nigrita is resistant to the venom of rattlers and other poisonous snakes.

Like a lot of snakes, male Mexican black kingsnakes fight over females by entwining their bodies and trying to pin their rival to the ground. The winner mates with the waiting female and the loser lies there with his head down. The female can mate with more than one male and not all of her babies necessarily have the same father. The breeding season begins in March and lasts till August.

About 40 to 65 days after mating, the female lays between three and 24 eggs in a rotting tree stump, a pile of sawdust or a decaying log. If food is abundant, she may lay more than one clutch in a season. The baby snakes hatch after about 60 to 62 days, and though neither parent cares for them they stay in their nest until their first molt. This happens after about a week. After molting, the baby snake goes off on its own.

Female Mexican black kingsnakes are ready to breed when they’re between two and four years old, and males are ready when they’re between one and four.

Though the snake isn’t the cuddliest of animal companions, it does beguile with its ease of care, mild disposition and the glossy beauty of its scales. The price of one full grown snake is a bit high at around $200, and a prospective owner will need to factor in the price of a tank or enclosure, the price of food, which is usually a steady supply of mice or chicks and the price of other necessities such as sources of heat and light, substrate, decor that replicates the snake’s preferred habitat and veterinary care.

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About the Author

Growing up in rural New England on a small scale farm gave me a lifelong passion for animals. I love learning about new wild animal species, habitats, animal evolutions, dogs, cats, and more. I've always been surrounded by pets and believe the best dog and best cat products are important to keeping our animals happy and healthy. It's my mission to help you learn more about wild animals, and how to care for your pets better with carefully reviewed products.

Mexican Black Kingsnake FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are Mexican black kingsnakes venomous?

Mexican black kingsnakes are not venomous and are harmless to humans.

How do Mexican black kingsnakes hunt?

These snakes hunt during the day and use their vision, though they do not see very well. They mostly find prey by picking up their molecules with their forked tongue and transferring them to the Jacobson’s organ at the roof of their mouth. They can also find prey through vibrations transmitted from the ground. Once they find the prey they grab it in their teeth, constrict it to death then swallow it whole.

Are Mexican black kingsnakes aggressive?

Mexican black kingsnakes are not usually aggressive and are quite peaceable.

Where do Mexican black kingsnakes live?

These snakes live in parts of the Sonoran Desert, a 100,000 square mile desert that ranges from southern California and Arizona to Mexico’s Baja California and Sonora. It’s also found in areas of Arizona. They prefer habitat that has lots of vegetation despite being in the desert.

What is a Mexican black kingsnake?

The Mexican black kingsnake is a nonvenomous snake, smallish in size, that is covered with glossy, deep dark brown or black scales all over its body. The scales are iridescent like black oil when light is shone on them.

Are Mexican Black Kingsnake good pets?

The Mexican black kingsnake is a good pet. It is tame and easy to take care of. A grown snake can be kept in a 40-gallon tank or enclosure.

Are Mexican black kingsnakes poisonous?

Mexican black kingsnakes are not poisonous at all.

How big can a Mexican black kingsnake get?

A full grown Mexican black kingsnake is about 4 feet long in size in the wild. However, a well-fed captive snake might grow to 5 feet.

How much does a Mexican black kingsnake price?

A quality Mexican black kingsnake can set you back around $200.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.


  1. Wkipedia
  2. Everything Reptiles (1970)
  3. Weebly (1970)
  4. ITIS (1970)

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