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What kind of snake was in my backyard?

On June 16, 2021 I walked onto our concrete patio at about 9 PM and saw a snake in residential Santa Barbara for the first time after living here for just over 50 years. The neighhood net is reporting sitings of gopher snakes but this guy doesn't match the online photos - at least to my eye. It was dark and I used a flash. I thought there was more color but question both the memory and the observation after looking at the photos. The location was one block north of Foothill between Mission Canyon and Alamar.

Can you ID? No hurry.

Thank you,


Brian, Santa Barbara - June 18, 2021

Curator Response

Hi Brian,

Based on the photos in your follow-up email (the clearest of which we have attached to this answer), this is a California Kingsnake. They are found in most of the Western states.

They are opportunistic feeders on all animals terrestrial, and harmless to humans. They don’t envenomate prey; they are amazing constrictors. Apparently, since they eat lots of types of reptiles, they need to squeeze much harder than snakes that feed primarily on mammals (mammals are easier to suffocate). They are immune to rattlesnake venom. Known to be rather ill-tempered when handled by humans (i.e., bitey and poopy!).

Thank you for sharing this cool local snake with us so we can add it to our Ask a Curator resource. If you're interested in further research, you can find more pictures and information about this species and many others on the California Herps website. (As you may know, herpetology is the study of reptiles and amphibians.)

Stay curious,

Curator of Vertebrate Zoology Krista Fahy, Ph.D.