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Snake Visitor
updated: Jun 08, 2014, 9:00 PM

By Edhat Subscriber

Sunday must have been snake day. We also had a visitor to our back yard. Our perimeter guard (the cat) warned us that something was going on, and we found this handsome California Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula californiae) crawling along the base of the wall, probably hoping to meet up with a lizard. It was between three and four feet long.

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California Kingsnakes have a variety of color schemes, generally based on a dark and light banded pattern. The "getula" in the species name refers to "chain" for this appearance. The dark bands range from black to milk chocolate, and the light bands from white to bright yellow. Sometimes the bands are broken, as on the anterior portion of this snake. Some variants, usually from farther south, look striped lengthwise. Some are mostly light color, or albinistic, and some are mostly dark, or melanistic.

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The "Lampropeltis" for the genus comes from the Greek for "shiny shield", referring to the smooth scales. Gopher snakes have keeled scales, with a ridge down the middle of each scale that gives them a more matte appearance. The blue sheen you see on this snake shows that it was getting ready to shed its skin in the next week or so. Newly shed kingsnakes show a beautiful iridescence in the sunlight.

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I put him up on our decrepit wooden swingset to slow him down enough to get closeups. This shot shows the broken anterior bands. He didn't slow down much.

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We're hoping he decides to hang around until he's big enough to gobble an adult gopher, of which we have plenty. Unfortunately, his most probable fate is to get killed by a neighbor or neighborhood pet, or squished on the road.

 

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