Found a Snake in Your Yard?

 Found a Snake in Your Yard?

Banded Californian King Snake

We introduce a couple of harmless ones here

BY GREG JAMES

When I was a kid living in southern California, my brothers and I had all sorts of interesting – and some might say crazy- pets. We were three boys with boundless energy and very tolerant parents. Often, after a weekend exploring the desert with our father, we’d return home with a new critter one of us caught. Most of the time it was a relatively harmless lizard like a Desert Iguana, Chuckwalla, Gecko, or skink. Occasionally my mom would draw the line and say “no” to a new captive (That happened when we managed to capture a baby rattlesnake on a trip to the Palm Springs area). With most of our menagerie, captivity lasted a few months or so and then we’d release our pets back to where we found them. Over the years our collection of desert wildlife included numerous species of snakes and lizards, a tarantula, a baby skunk, several scorpions, and a Kangaroo Rat.

Why am I writing this? A couple of weeks ago, I received a text photo from a friend who lives in San Jose Del Cabo. The photo was of a beautiful black and white banded snake that he’d seen in his garden. He wondered if I knew what it was. I recognized it immediately as a California Kingsnake (Lampropeltis California). I’d had one as a pet back in the 1970s, and it was one of the few snakes I kept for several years. It never bit me, was easy to care for, and even went to my school for 6th grade “show and tell” where it fascinated my classmates who lined up to touch or hold it.

I quickly replied to my friend’s text that the snake is harmless and in fact, a good one to have around. The Kingsnake is rather unique in that it likes to feed on other reptiles and is particularly fond of Rattlesnakes (it’s immune to Rattlesnake venom). So besides making good pets and being harmless, they’re great to have in your garden if you don’t like Rattlers! 

Cape Gopher Snake

While on the subject, I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention that the Cape Gopher Snake (Pituophis Vertebralis) is another harmless local species that deserves to be left alone. Besides being the reddest and most strikingly beautiful of the Gopher Snake family (Which includes the Bull Snake, Baja Gopher Snake, Great Basin Gopher Snake, and numerous others), it too is harmless and a voracious consumer of rodents like Rats, Mice, and Gophers. Both species are quite common in Southern Baja and part of the amazing variety of flora and fauna found locally.