Gray-banded kingsnakes are moderately sized snakes, can grow up to 4 ft in length, with the average being 3 ft. They have a relatively wide head (when compared to other kingsnake species), and have large eyes with round pupils.
Alterna coloration and patterning vary greatly, but there are two main color morphs, which were once considered separate subspecies: the "Blair's" which has wide red/orange banding, and the "alterna" which has thinner orange/red banding. Both are generally on a grey background with white and/or black accenting. There are many variations on this basic morophology found in the wild and captive bred, with some specimens even lacking orange or red banding entirely.
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Alterna are oviparous, laying clutches 3–13 eggs in early summer, which hatch in approximately 9 weeks. Hatchlings are around 10 inches in length.
The gray-banded kingsnake is found in a variety of habitats throughout its range, including canyons, rocky hills, limestone ridges, boulder piles and desert flats at elevations up to 7,500 feet. They're able to survive extreme heat by spending much of their lives underground, in crevices and beneath debris.
These snakes will rarely attempt to bite, although they may do so if restrained. Handle gently, without pinching or squeezing, allowing the snake to move through your fingers. Do not allow the snake to dangle unsupported.
Any ‘typical’ snake cage can be used, with a fifteen-gallon aquarium being adequate for an adult of all but the largest forms. Hatchlings are sensitive to dehydration and do best in small ‘Critter Keeper’ cages or plastic shoe boxes. Due their secretive nature, be sure to provide adequate hiding areas. Rock cracks and crevices are preferred over larger, more spacious hide houses. Many keepers use small shallow pottery (plant pot drainage saucers) successfully.
Ophibolus alternus Brown, 1901 Lampropeltis alterna – Stejneger & Barbour, 1917 Lampropeltis mexican alterna – Conant, 1975
The gray-banded kingsnake (Lampropeltis alterna), sometimes referred to as the alterna, is a species of nonvenomous colubrid snake. Some sources list two distinct subspecies of alterna, as L. a. alterna and L. a. blairi (Flury, 1950) differentiated by patterning and locale, but research has shown them to be the same.
This species should be kept between 80 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperature control is important, as it maintains feeding response and digestion.
The Gray-Banded Kingsnake is found in west Texas and adjacent areas of Mexico. They inhabit extremely hot and dry areas, surviving by spending the majority of their lives underground, emerging only when conditions are suitable.
The gray-banded kingsnake, whose scientific name is Lampropeltis alterna, is a species of the Colubridae family native to the desert regions of western Texas, southern New Mexico and several northern Mexican states. Sporting a gray body with red to orange bands often accented by thin black and white stripes, the average adult grows to about 3 feet in length. The species is secretive and is rarely encountered in the wild.
In early summer, females lay clutches of three to 15 eggs in a secluded nest after a gestation period of 30 to 50 days. The eggs hatch after about nine weeks of incubation, and the newborn snakes range from 6 to 12 inches in size. Their calm disposition, small size and striking color make them a popular specimen in the exotic pet trade.
6-8" at hatching, adults may approach four feet, but most are between three and four feet in length.
For more information, read our detailed gray-banded kingsnake care sheet.
Gray-banded kingsnakes feed primarily on lizards. They will occasionally feed on small rodents, frogs, and the eggs of ground nesting birds, lizards, and other snakes.
Provide a thermal gradient by placing a heat pad under one end of the cage. This should allow the snake to choose from higher temperatures (about 85-90F) at the warm end, and cooler temperatures (about 70-75F) at the cooler end. Provide suitable hiding areas at both warm and cool areas, so the snake can feel secure at any temperature. Temperatures below 75F should be avoided. No special lighting is required for these nocturnal animals.
The gray-banded kingsnake is a highly prized, moderately sized snake.
It is found in the Trans-Pecos/Chihuahuan Desert region of southwestern Texas, southern New Mexico, and northern Mexico.
A variety of substrates can be used. Aspen bedding, newspaper, and Care Fresh are popular with many keepers. Paper towels may be used for lining baby cages. Keep the substrate clean and dry at all times. As with all reptiles, do NOT use cedar or pine shavings. These items are toxic to reptiles.
In the wild, this nocturnal snake feeds mainly on lizards and rodents, while also eating bats, birds, frogs and other snakes on occasion. Its main predators are badgers, coyotes, foxes, peccaries, raccoons, skunks, weasels and wild cats.
The gray-banded kingsnake will feed on a variety of prey items. They will consume rodents as well as cold-blooded prey such as lizards and frogs (in addition to other snakes). Young, captive-bred gray-banded kingsnakes can be reluctant feeders and do best in the hands of experienced keepers.
Grey Banded Kingsnakes are a moderately sized kingsnake native to Texas, New Mexico and Mexico. They have a calm disposition and make a fantastic pet as they rarely ever bite whilst having relatively simple care requirements.