The California mountain kingsnake is a nonvenomous colubrid snake native to North America. It has a banded pattern that consists of red, black, and white crossbands. The bands are always arranged in the same order with each red crossband being surrounded by two black crossbands, forming what is called a triad. Each triad is separated from the next triad by a white crossband, or in some examples by a cream or yellow crossband. Some individuals may have reduced amounts of red pigment, and rare individuals may have virtually no red bands at all.
California mountain kingsnakes are found in western North America, in the Western United States and northwest Mexico. They range from extreme southern Washington state through Oregon and California, to northern Baja California. These snakes live mostly in the mountains where they inhabit coniferous forests, oak woodlands, and shrubland.
California mountain kingsnakes are secretive creatures that lead a solitary life and spend most of the time in their underground burrows or hide under rocks, logs, bark, and other objects. They are very good climbers and may sometimes climb in trees. During cold months of the year, California mountain kingsnakes hibernate in burrows under the ground or in deep rock crevices. They are generally diurnal and hunt by day using their sight and smell to find prey. Being nonvenomous, California mountain kingsnakes rely on their bright coloration when they feel threatened; they are similar in appearance to the very venomous Coral snake, and thus bright coloration warns and confuses potential predators.
California mountain kingsnakes breed between April and early June. Females lay a clutch of 2-10 white eggs which are then incubated for 50-87 days.
California mountain kingsnakes are not endangered at present. However, locally some populations suffer from habitat destruction and illegal collection for the pet trade.
According to IUCN, the total adult population size of the California mountain kingsnake is unknown but probably exceeds 10,000 individuals and may exceed 100,000 individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List but its numbers today are decreasing.
California mountain kingsnakes are important predators in their ecosystem and help control populations of their prey items.