Short-tailed Kingsnake, Short-tailed Snake

NON-VENOMOUS

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Scientific name: Lampropeltis extenuata (BROWN 1890)
* Currently accepted name

Synonym:
* scientific names used through time

  • Stilosoma extenuatum – BROWN 1890
  • Stilosoma extenuatum arenicola – HIGHTON 1965
  • Stilosoma extenuatum multistictum – HIGHTON 1965
  • Lampropeltis extenuata – CROTHER 2008

Adults average 14-20 inches (36-51 cm) in size. The record is 25.75 inches (65.4 cm). An extremely slender gray snake with a blotched or spotted pattern. The 50-80 dark brown to black spots down the middle of the back alternate with dark spots on the sides. The light colored spaces between the black spots on the back often have an orange center giving the impression of an indistinct orange stripe running down the back. The belly is white with dark blotches. The blunt head is very small and roughly the same diameter as the body, and the crown is dark brown or black. The tail is short, comprising no more than 10% of the snake's total length. There are 19 dorsal scale rows at midbody, and the scales are smooth. The pupils are round. The juveniles are likely similar to the adults.

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A. Top of the head
B. Underside of the head (chin and throat)
C. Elongated scales below the tail (subcaudal scales) are typically divided
D. Front (face view) of the head
E. Side of the head
F. Smooth scales

Range: The Short-tailed Kingsnake occurs throughout much of upland northern central Florida, west of the St. Johns River.

Habitat: The Short-tailed Kingsnake is restricted to upland pine-turkey oak woodlands and dry, sandy soiled habitats such as coastal live oak hammocks and sand pine scrub.

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Comments: HARMLESS (Non-Venomous). Endemic to Florida, this species is listed by the State of Florida as a "Threatened Species," because it is restricted to limited habitats and urban development of these upland habitat areas. A burrowing species, it is seldom seen above ground. It is thought to feed exclusively, or nearly so, on the Florida Crowned Snake (Tantilla relicta). Small smooth-scaled lizards such as the Ground Skink (Scincella lateralis) may also be eaten. It lays eggs, most likely underground.

Comparison with other species: The Eastern Corn Snake (Pantherophis guttatus) has reddish–orange blotches and a belly with a black and white checkerboard pattern. The Mole Kingsnake (Lampropeltis calligaster) has a light Y-shaped pattern on the back of the head and neck, a clouded brownish belly, and reddish-brown blotches on the body. Juvenile Eastern Racers (Coluber constrictor) and Eastern Coachwhips (Masticophis flagellum flagellum) have heads larger than their necks and large eyes. Juvenile Eastern Ratsnakes (Pantherophis alleghaniensis) also have larger heads and stocky bodies.