Origin: Arizona, New Mexico, Texas
Size: ~4 feet
Lifespan: up to 20 years
Basking Temperature: 85 degrees
Cool End Temperature: 75-80 degrees
Baby enclosure size: 20″ x 10″ x 10″
Adult enclosure size: 3’ x 2’ x 1’
Desert kingsnakes are a desert dwelling kingsnake endemic to the American Southwest. They are easily recognized by their dark head and distinctive pattern, along with lustrous, shining scales. Their size is relatively typical of true kingsnakes. They are elusive by nature but tame readily with minimal handling, although hatchlings can be quite skittish. They are keen, alert animals.
This guide is a brief overview of basic care and minimum husbandry requirements and is not intended as a comprehensive guide to care. Our best advice:
Read, read, read! Studying about your new pet is the key to a long and happy life for them, and years of enjoyment for you.
Enclosures must be long enough for the snake to stretch out fully and exercise. Desert kingsnakes prefer to burrow rather than climb. Provide multiple hiding places. Upgrade your snake’s enclosure any time they are no longer able to stretch out. As humidity is not a substantial requirement for these animals, glass aquariums with screen tops are acceptable, though they are not our recommendation, as these snakes are excellent escape artists.
Aspen is ideal for desert kingsnakes, and should be provided thick enough to allow burrowing. When using aspen, remove any wet or mildewed substrate regularly.
HEATING AND LIGHTING
A basking spot can be provided at one end of the enclosure regulated to 85 degrees. Ceramic heat emitters are preferable. When using heat emitters, a guard must be present and secure to avoid burns. Use a thermostat to regulate the temperature with the probe secured directly in the basing spot. Do not guess! Do not use only a thermometer. Overheating can be quickly fatal for your new pet. Basking spot may be cycled for day-night, with a constant ambient temp in the mid-70’s. Desert kingsnakes do not require UV lights.
Desert kingsnakes prefer a dry climate and do not need supplemental humidity. A humid hide with damp sphagnum moss may be provided to assist with shedding, but this is not typically needed.
Provide your snake with a non-porous water bowl and change it frequently. For desert kingsnakes, we find that because they move their bedding around frequently, a bowl with higher sides is preferable. Snakes frequently defecate in their water bowl, so frequent disinfection is essential. We recommend F10 Veterinary Disinfectant or original (yellow) Listerine diluted to 10% with water.
Desert kingsnakes should be handled regularly from the time they are young to develop into docile, well-socialized adults. Because young desert kingsnakes have little natural defenses, they frequently thrash and musk when picked up. When handling hatchling kingsnakes, we find it best to gently scoop them up with two hands, keeping them in the enclosure rather than removing them. This helps avoid falls, which can injure a young kingsnake. With regular handling, your young kingsnake will become more comfortable with being picked up. Young snakes that are being socialized may bite, but this is uncommon. The best reaction is no reaction. Children should always be supervised when handling snakes. Do not handle them while they are in shed or right after meals.
Allow your new snake at least a week to adjust to its new habitat before feeding. Mortal Coil Serpentry supports feeding frozen feeders. Your new pet is already feeding on frozen thawed. Live feeding is not recommended. Warm frozen prey to a natural body temperature (~90 degrees). Do not feed your snake from your fingers. Present prey with tongs, holding it by the base of the tail, and wiggle gently in front of the snake. Do not handle for at least 24 hours after feeding. Desert kingsnakes will not typically eat when in shed.
Hatchlings to 2 years:
1 rodent the approximate girth of the snake once per week. Mice and African Soft Furs are superior to rats of equivalent size for nutritional value.
1 rodent the approximate girth of the snake once every 1-2 weeks. If the snake is refusing meals ~50% of the time, adjust the feeding schedule accordingly.
The correct body shape for a desert kingsnake is essentially round, but not so thick as to make the tail overly distinguishable from the body.