The Desert kingsnake is a nonvenomous snake native to the United States and Mexico. Its glossy dorsum is black or very dark brown colored, finely speckled with off-white or yellow. These pale flecks form dimly-defined narrow vertebral crossbands, between which the intervening rectangular areas are black. Pale yellow scales may predominate along the lower sides. The abdomen of both adult and young snakes is mostly black, with white or pale yellow blotches marking the outer ends of the ventral plates.
Desert kingsnakes occur in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and in Mexico. They can be found in any rural habitat within its range. These snakes also frequent woodlands, shrubland, savanna, and grasslands usually near water tanks or within riparian corridors.
Desert kingsnakes are solitary and secretive. During the day they typically hide beneath logs or debris and in the evening they come out to hunt. Desert kingsnakes are docile creatures when coming face to face with humans. If they do not try to escape, often they will "play dead" by flipping over onto their backs and lying motionless. Some who domesticate kingsnakes, such as ranchers, do so in the hopes that the kingsnakes will feed on other snakes which might present more of a threat.
Desert kingsnakes are carnivores. They are powerful constrictors and their diet consists of mostly mice if domestic, and other rodents if wild. They also can feed on clutches of reptile eggs detected beneath the surface via smell and are able to consume young diamondback rattlesnakes.
Desert kingsnakes breed between the months of March and June. Females lay clutches of 5 to 12 adhesive-surfaced eggs in late June or July. The eggs are sometimes buried as deeply as a foot to prevent drying through their moisture-permeable shells. The young hatch after about 60 days of incubation. They are brightly yellow-speckled in vertebral cross-lines, and also exhibit a lateral row of large, dark brown spots which, as they mature, are gradually fragmented by encroaching yellow flecks.
There are no major threats to the Desert snake at present.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of the Desert kingsnake is unknown but presumably exceeds 10,000 individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are stable.