© John Cancalosi
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By Leah Duran
What's in a name? The common kingsnake possesses an uncommon trait: immunity to rattlesnake venom. In fact, the kingsnake will even eat rattlesnakes, which it detects by scent. A constrictor, the kingsnake surprises rodents, birds and frogs with a bite before coiling around the meal-to-be.
Its scientific name, Lampropeltis getula, alludes to its scale pattern of alternating black and cream bands: the Latin "getula" refers to the Getulians, an ancient people of northwestern Africa whose artwork featured similar ringed designs. The bands framing the snake's 2- to 4-foot length help hide it from predators.
Of the nine subspecies of getula, Arizona is home to three. Color variations of desert kingsnakes in Southeastern Arizona include yellow bands, while all black is the defining look for western black kingsnakes at the state's southern edge.
Kingsnakes thrive in a variety of environments, from low-elevation deserts to grasslands and forests. At dawn and dusk, when kingsnakes are most active, you're likely to find this non-venomous species slithering near rocks or water. Sightings are more common in warmer months, as kingsnakes hibernate throughout fall and winter.
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