The speckled kingsnake is a non-venomous variety of king snake which is often kept as a pet, and grows to around three or four feet (0.91 to 1.22 m) in length with a lifespan of up to around 20 years. It can be recognized by its characteristic speckled appearance, with small light colored speckles on a black body. A speckled kingsnake is often a good choice for a pet snake for both beginning and experienced snake owners.
Speckled kingsnakes are found in the wild in some parts of the United States, and are also bred in captivity and kept as pets. In some areas, they are a threatened species and killing or capturing them is illegal, so people who want one as a pet need to purchase it from a reputable pet store. If a speckled kingsnake feels threatened it may rattle its tail, release a pungent musk, and bite, but these reactions are much less likely in captive-bred snakes which have been handled appropriately and with care.
A speckled kingsnake kills by constricting its prey, and consumes a wide variety of prey including mice and other small mammals, birds, other snakes, lizards, and the eggs of reptiles and birds. In captivity, a diet of thawed previously-frozen mice is recommended for speckled kingsnakes, and the size of the mouse should increase as the snake grows. Feeding live mice is not recommended because the mouse can injure the snake, and most snakes of this breed do not have any problems consuming pre-killed mice.
This type of snake is often chosen as a person's first pet snake because it is relatively easy to take care of and is usually a calm snake if bred in captivity. Pet snake owners need to research the needs of pet snakes in general, and kingsnakes in particular, to ensure the health and well-being of the snake. Heating, lighting, humidity, and bedding or substrate materials are all important considerations, and different species of snake will have different needs.
It is very important to keep a pet speckled kingsnake in a secure enclosure because all snakes are good at escaping, and kingsnakes may be particularly likely to escape. Small snakes may be able to slip through even very small ventilation holes, and larger snakes can push aside even a heavy enclosure lid. It is also important to provide a hiding place for the snake, such as an upside down cardboard box or a commercially available plastic reptile cave, in order to help the snake feel secure and reduce stress.