The banded kingsnake is a nonvenomous snake located in the United States regions of southern New Mexico and western Texas. These snakes rarely exceed 4 feet (1.2 m) in length and have a wide head with large eyes. This snake is nocturnal and therefore not frequently encountered. They prefer mountainous terrain, where humans do not often live. The banded kingsnake is commonly bred in captivity for use as an exotic pet.
Most banded kingsnakes are less than 4 feet (1.2 m) in length, but some snakes somewhat exceed this length. Their heads are flat with large eyes and pupils nearly the same size. A banded kingsnake can be a wide variety of colors, from gray to red. Some people breed these snakes in captivity and with other species of snakes for even more variation in color. The traditional gray banded kingsnake often appears more blue than gray, which increases its popularity among snake keepers.
The banded kingsnake is one of the calmest snakes to be found. They are not known for biting or easily becoming defensive like some other species of snake. This species of snake does not give birth to live snakes. Instead, they lay three to around one dozen eggs, which hatch within three months.
These snakes prefer to feed on frogs, lizards, and rodents, but in captivity they may take foods scented with lizard. Some people describe the banded kingsnake as a problem feeder. In reality, the snakes simply prefer certain types of food, some of which can be relatively expensive to buy on a regular basis.
A banded kingsnake must be handled with care when kept as a pet. While this kind of snake usually does not bite, it might if handled improperly and feels threatened. It should never be allowed to dangle unsupported, nor should the handler pinch or squeeze the snake to stop it from moving around. The best way to handle the snake is to allow it to move freely through the fingers, occasionally moving the hands into a different position for better support.
These snakes are used to dry areas with low humidity, so they thrive in captivity under the same conditions. If a snake’s environment has too much humidity, it can experience problems shedding. Sometimes shedding problems lead to loss of the tail, because the skin restricts blood flow and ultimately acts as a tourniquet. These problems can be avoided by keeping water and damp moss available in the aquarium.