Sunday, September 21, 2014

Kingsnake Attacks and Eats Rattlesnake

Snakes that eat other snakes are often called “kings;” for example, the King Cobra. The most common, widespread North American snake with this feeding habit is the beautiful common kingsnake, Lampropeltis getula. Readers of this blog know that the kingsnake is my favorite snake.

Juvenile kingsnake June 2012 6-28-2012 6-09-012Common kingsnake

Like all snakes, kingsnakes have several anatomical features that allow them to eat prey that is actually bigger than their heads. These features include a specialized jaw that allows the mouth to open nearly 180 degrees, very stretchable skin, and lack of a breastbone, which allows the ribs to expand as the meal moves down the gullet. If you had the same adaptations, you would be able to swallow a cantaloupe.

My fellow docent at Tohono Chul Park, Carlton King, was lucky enough to observe a common kingsnake attacking, subduing, and swallowing a fairly big Western diamondback rattlesnake in his neighborhood. With his permission, I am pleased to share these remarkable photos with you.

kingsnake head1The kingsnake is suffocating the rattlesnake and getting a grip on its head.

kingsnake head cuThe kingsnake has started to swallow the rattlesnake. Note that the kingsnake’s head is upside down in this photo.

kingsnake partway down 9-19-2014 8-23-01 AM 4608x3456The rattlesnake makes its way down the kingsnake’s gullet…

Kingsnake rattle 9-19-2014 10-47-16 AM 3901x1905…and now everything has been swallowed but the tail and rattle.

Kingsnake with rattler inside 9-21-2014 7-04-17 AM 630x297Here is the kingsnake with the rattlesnake complete inside it. See how small its head looks!

Thanks again, Carlton! 


  1. The one day I neglect to check your blog! Oh, well. Much worth the wait. How elegantly gruesome!

  2. Yes; definitely my most elegant post, but less gruesome, I think, than the gophersnake eating the fledgling doves.