Missouri's Constrictors

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Published on: May. 14, 2010

some folks to misidentify fox snakes as copperheads. The belly is normally yellow and has distinct black, checkered markings. Western fox snakes are from 36 to 54 inches long.

Their name likely comes from the strong musky odor, similar to the smell of a fox, that they emit when defending themselves.

The fox snake is not a common snake in Missouri and has been added to the list of endangered species. It is found in northeast and northwest parts of the state, mostly around the edges of large natural marshes.

Bullsnake (Pituophis catenifer sayi)

This tan or cream-colored snake has numerous large brown or black blotches. Its tail appears to be banded, and its belly is yellowish with small dark-brown or black markings along the sides.

This is Missouri’s largest species of snake, with adults ranging from 50 to 82 inches long. Bullsnakes will try to deter predators or threats by vibrating their tail and producing a loud hiss.

Bullsnakes are found in northern and western Missouri and are absent from the southeastern third of the state. They are commonly considered a prairie species, but this species also inhabits open woodlands of the Ozarks.

Prairie Kingsnake (Lampropeltis calligaster calligaster)

This species has a background color of tannish-gray or greenish-gray covered by blotches and saddles of brown or reddish-brown. The top of its head usually has a backward-pointing arrowhead-shaped marking. Its belly is yellow with rectangular brown markings. Hatchling prairie kingsnakes are light gray with dark-brown markings and look very much like baby black rat snakes. The length of this species is from 30 to 42 inches.

The reddish-brown markings of some prairie kingsnakes sometimes causes the misidentification of these snakes as copperheads.

The prairie kingsnake occurs statewide. It is usually found in grasslands, old fields, along the edge of woods and near farm buildings.

Speckled Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getulus holbrooki)

Often called the “salt-and-pepper snake,” this handsome species is generally black, but each scale on its back and sides has a white or yellow spot, causing it to look speckled. Its belly is light yellow and covered with a pattern of irregular black markings. Length is from 36 to 48 inches. Their diet includes lizards, snakes—including venomous species—and rodents.

Speckled kingsnakes are common statewide. They live in a variety of habitats, including prairies, forest edges, rocky, sparsely wooded hillsides and farmlands.

Red Milk Snake (Lampropeltis triangulum syspila)

This is Missouri’s smallest constrictor and one of the most colorful snakes in the state. Its background color is white or light gray, and its body is covered with red or orange markings bordered with black. It has a white belly that is strongly checkered with black. Its length ranges from 18 to 24 inches.

Red milk snakes are found statewide. They spend most of their time under rocks on open rocky hillsides. They can be confused with and somewhat resemble the venomous coral snake, but that species is not present in Missouri.

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