Lampropeltis Zonata – California Mountain Kingsnake

Lampropeltis zonata - California mountain kingsnake information

The california mountain kingsnake, is a nonvenomous snake with red, black and white/yellow crossbands mimicking the appearance of venomous coral snakes. It inhabits the mountain ranges of the Western United States from southern Washington to California. Its common name can lead to confusions with the California kingsnake, a black and yellow snake.


The back of the snake has black, red and white or yellow crossbands. Depending on the population, the thickness of the crossbands can vary. The red or orange colored crossband is always between two black crossbands followed by one yellow or white colored crossband. The snake has smooth scales and a shiny appearance.

Lampropeltis zonata - California mountain kingsnake information
A California mountain kingsnake. Photo: Dawn Hellner

The snake mimicks the appearance of venomous coral snakes. Since the California mountain kingsnake does not appear in the same range as any of the North American coral snakes, they can’t usually be confused in the wild. However, a way to tell the two snakes apart is by their color patterns. Venomous coral snakes have red and yellow/white crossbands next to reach other. The red and yellow colors of kingsnakes are always separated by a black crossband. The California mountain kingsnake has a similar appearance to the nonvenomous scarlet snake and the scarlet kingsnake.


Adult California mountain kingsnakes reach an average length of 20-40 inches (50-100 cm). Very large specimen can reach a length of up to 50 inches (130 cm). Their body is slender as is their head and neck.

Hunting Behavior and Habitat

As other kingsnakes, the California mountain kinsnake is a non-venomous constrictor snake. It feeds on lizards, small mammals, juvenile birds, eggs, amphibians and other snakes, including individuals of its own species. The snake inhabits mountainous areas in the Western United States.

California mountain kingsnakeorange black white or yellow snake similar to coral snake
A California mountain kingsnake in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Photo: Flickr


As all other kingsnakes, also this species is nonvenomous and harmless for humans. As a constrictor, the snake does not have the ability to suffocate humans or larger pets – its prey are much smaller animals.

black red yellow snake in california lampropeltis zonata california mountain kingsnake
A shiny California mountain kingsnake. Photo: Flickr

California mountain kingsnake range in the USA

The California kingsnake can be found in the mountain areas of California, Oregon and the extreme southern parts of Washington.

Subspecies of Lampropeltis zonata

Currently, seven subspecies of the California mountain kinsnake are distinguished:

  • Lampropeltis zonata multicincta
  • Lampropeltis zonata multifasciata
  • Lampropeltis zonata parvirubra
  • Lampropeltis zonata pulchra
  • Lampropeltis zonata zonata
  • Lampropeltis zonata agalma
  • Lampropeltis zonata herrerae

Scientific classification of Lampropeltis zonata

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Reptilia
  • Order: Squamata
  • Suborder: Serpentes
  • Family: Colubridae
  • Genus: Lampropeltis
  • Species: Lampropeltis zonata
Lampropeltis Zonata – California Mountain Kingsnake

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