Sometimes referred to as the common kingsnake, the speckled kingsnake is a moderately large snake with smooth scales and a background color of black. Each scale has an irregular yellow marking that varies in size and shape giving the snake an overall speckled appearance. The belly is highly variable, but is usually black often with irregular yellow to cream-colored markings. Juveniles, and some adults appear blotched because the density of yellow markings on dorsal scales is distributed such that a series of black blotches are evident along the top of the body. In the eastern United States, this species is a banded snake or blotched snake. The anal plate is not divided.
The distribution in Oklahoma is nearly statewide. The distribution of a number of subspecies ranges west to east from the west coast to southern New Jersey and north to south from southwest Oregon to the tip of Florida and into Mexico.
Speckled kingsnakes are active from spring through late fall. During these times, these kingsnakes are primarily active during the day but as temperatures increase in summer they are active at dusk and at night. They occur in nearly all habitats, from riparian forests to open prairie. Mating occurs from March through May, and females likely deposit eggs in late May and June. Hatchlings appear in August and September. Number of eggs varies from about six in small females to at least 23 in large females. Speckled kingsnakes eat a remarkable diversity of prey including small mammals, birds, frogs, lizards, reptile eggs, and other species of snakes. Although speckled kingsnakes are often referred to as “cannibalistic,” they typically do not eat other speckled kingsnakes. These snakes are best known for their ability to eat large snakes, including venomous species such as western massasaugas and prairie rattlesnakes. A speckled kingsnake can eat snakes as long or longer than they are. Speckled kingsnakes are harmless to humans.
Speckled kingsnakes vary in size from about eight inches as hatchlings to at least 72 inches as large adults. Typical adult size is 36 to 48 inches.
Speckled kingsnakes are not only common in relatively undisturbed habitats, but often are common in agricultural areas, particularly around buildings and junkyards.