Last Saturday, I put in a marathon day in one of my favorite parts of the world - southern Ohio's diverse Adams County. I got down there at 9 am, and met up with John Howard at his house, which sits in the midst of lots of GOOD STUFF. We explored far and wide that day, in part scouting things for this weekend's Mothapalooza. After dinner, John turned me on to a "life" dragonfly, the Stygian Shadowdragon, Neurocordulia yamaskanensis. These things are cool as can be, coming out to fly for a brief period from dusk until dark. We saw many of them at fingertip range hunting over Ohio Brush Creek, and if all goes well we'll have one in the hand tomorrow night, and I'll make some photos - that's about the only way you'll get a camera on one of these beasts. After the shadowdragons, we worked until nearly midnight at John's moth traps, recording many interesting things. I rolled back into my driveway around 2 am that morning.
When John and I get afield, we always find scores of cool stuff, and this trip was no exception. Hopefully, you ophidiophobes have already figured out from this post's title that the feature creature is a SNAKE. If not, I am engaging in an act of courtesy, and warning you now: THIS POST IS ABOUT A SNAKE! Oh no, oh no, a snake, a snake - turn back, turn back!
For those of you bold enough to venture ahead, and who may never have had the great fortune to meet a kingsnake, onward ho!
I had the distinct pleasure of seeing not one, but two, Black Kingsnakes, Lampropeltis getula, on this day. John had caught one in his garden before I arrived, and I found another under a debris pile later that day.
Neither were particularly large, about two feet in length, but a well-developed adult can reach four feet. Kingsnakes are normally fairly passive, and while they might try and take a nip when first captured, neither of these individuals made an attempt to bite and calmed down nicely.
Overall, this is a rare beast in Ohio. Populations are currently known from only four of our southernmost counties: Adams, Jackson, Lawrence, and Scioto. Kingsnakes can be fairly common in some regions within these counties, though.
But why the name "Kingsnake"? Because, docile and handsome as this reptile may be, they pursue other snakes with a vengeance, and any other snake small enough to be swallowed is not safe if a kingsnake is afoot. Kingsnakes probably take plenty of other harmless species such as Eastern Garter Snakes, Brown Snakes, Ring-necked Snakes and the like. But even the venomous species are not immune, and in this part of the world that would be the Timber Rattlesnake and Northern Copperhead. While even the biggest kingsnake isn't going to handle a full-grown Timber Rattlesnake, they'll catch and eat the small ones, apparently. Kingsnakes are unaffected by venom, and thus able to handle rattlesnakes and copperheads, both of which most other predators give a wide berth.
Any snake that can catch and eat a Timber Rattlesnake deserves to be dubbed the king.