Lampropeltis nigra - (Yarrow, 1882)
Black Kingsnake
Synonym(s): Lampropeltis getula nigra (Yarrow, 1882)
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Lampropeltis getula nigra (Yarrow, 1882) (TSN 209251)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.1006257
Element Code: ARADB19090
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Reptiles - Snakes
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Reptilia Squamata Colubridae Lampropeltis
Genus Size: C - Small genus (6-20 species)
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Pyron, R. A, and F. T. Burbrink. 2009. Systematics of the Common Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula; Serpentes: Colubridae) and the burden of heritage in taxonomy. Zootaxa 2241:22-32.
Concept Reference Code: A09PYR02NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Lampropeltis nigra
Taxonomic Comments: Based on mitochondrial DNA evidence, ecological niche modeling, morphology, and historical precedence, Pyron and Burbrink (2009) determined that the traditionally recognized Lampropeltis getula comprises five distinct species: L. getula, L. nigra, L. holbrooki, L. splendida, and L. californiae. Crother et al. (in Crother 2012) accepted this taxonomic change. This species comprises the previously recognized subspecies L. g. nigra and L. g. holbrooki (part). Krysko et al. also recognized L. nigrita from Mexico and southeastern Arizona.
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 30Oct2014
Global Status Last Changed: 26Feb1997
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by calculator
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Reasons: Widespread occurrence in a broad range of habitats in central eastern U.S., relatively common in many areas; no major threats.
Nation: United States
National Status: N5 (05Oct1996)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Alabama (S5), Georgia (SNR), Illinois (S5), Indiana (S4), Kentucky (S5), Louisiana (SNR), Mississippi (S3), Ohio (S2), Tennessee (S5), Virginia (S2), West Virginia (S5)

Other Statuses

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: 200,000-2,500,000 square km (about 80,000-1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: Range extends from western and southern Illinois, southern Indiana, southern Ohio, and southwestern West Virginia southward to the Gulf Coast of eastern Louisiana, Mississippi, and southwestern Alabama (east of the Mississippi River except apparently in southern Louisiana) (Pyron and Burbrink 2009).

Area of Occupancy:  
Area of Occupancy Comments: Area of occupancy is unknown but very large.

Number of Occurrences:  
Number of Occurrences Comments: The number of distinct occurrences has not been determined using consistent criteria, but this species is represented by a very large number of collection sites and locations (as defined by IUCN) (e.g., see Mount 1975, Blaney 1977:66).

Population Size: 100,000 - 1,000,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Total adult population size is unknown but presumbly exceeds 100,000. This species is common in much of its broad range.

Overall Threat Impact: Low
Overall Threat Impact Comments: Localized threats include habitat loss/degradation resulting from intensive urbanization, agriculture, and reforestation, and by collection for the pet trade, but on a range-wide basis the overall threat level is relatively low.

Short-term Trend: Decline of <30% to relatively stable
Short-term Trend Comments: Trend over the past 10 years or three generations is uncertain, but distribution and abundance probably have been relatively stable or slowly declining (much less than 30 percent).
 

Long-term Trend:  
Long-term Trend Comments: Historically, deforestation probably enhanced habitat and increased numbers; currently, reforestation and habitat loss are reducing some populations.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
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Global Range: (200,000-2,500,000 square km (about 80,000-1,000,000 square miles)) Range extends from western and southern Illinois, southern Indiana, southern Ohio, and southwestern West Virginia southward to the Gulf Coast of eastern Louisiana, Mississippi, and southwestern Alabama (east of the Mississippi River except apparently in southern Louisiana) (Pyron and Burbrink 2009).

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
Endemism: endemic to a single nation

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AL, GA, IL, IN, KY, LA, MS, OH, TN, VA, WV

Range Map
No map available.


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
MS Prentiss (28117), Tishomingo (28141)
OH Adams (39001), Jackson (39079), Pike (39131)*, Scioto (39145)*, Vinton (39163)*
VA Lee (51105), Scott (51169)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
03 Upper Tombigbee (03160101)+
05 Lower Scioto (05060002)+, Little Scioto-Tygarts (05090103)+, Ohio Brush-Whiteoak (05090201)+
06 North Fork Holston (06010101)+*, Upper Clinch (06010205)+, Powell (06010206)+, Pickwick Lake (06030005)+*, Bear (06030006)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Basic Description: A colubrid snake; adults usually 90-114 cm.
Reproduction Comments: Mates in spring, lays eggs in early summer, eggs hatch in late summer.
Habitat Type: Terrestrial
Non-Migrant: Y
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Palustrine Habitat(s): Riparian
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Grassland/herbaceous, Old field, Savanna, Shrubland/chaparral, Suburban/orchard, Woodland - Conifer, Woodland - Hardwood, Woodland - Mixed
Special Habitat Factors: Burrowing in or using soil, Fallen log/debris, Standing snag/hollow tree
Habitat Comments: This species occurs in dry rocky hills, open woods, dry prairies, stream valleys, and many other habitats.
Adult Food Habits: Carnivore
Immature Food Habits: Carnivore
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Group Name: Medium And Large Colubrid Snakes

Use Class: Not applicable
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Occurrences are based on evidence of historical presence, or current and likely recurring presence, at a given location. Such evidence minimally includes collection or reliable observation and documentation of one or more individuals (including eggs) in or near appropriate habitat where the species is presumed to be established and breeding.
Separation Barriers: Busy highway or highway with obstructions such that snakes rarely if ever cross successfully; major river, lake, pond, or deep marsh (this barrier pertains only to upland species and does not apply to aquatic or wetland snakes); densely urbanized area dominated by buildings and pavement.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 1 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 10 km
Separation Justification: Available information on movements of colubrid snakes is limited to a small minority of species. These data indicate that nearly all species have home ranges smaller or much smaller than 25 ha (e.g., less than 3 ha, Pituophis catenifer in California, Rodriguez-Robles 2003), with some up to about 75 ha (Heterodon platirhinos, average 50 ha, Plummer and Mills 2000), and the largest up to 225 ha in the biggest colubrids (Drymarchon, summer mean 50-100 ha, USFWS 1998).

Radiotelemetry data for Pantherophis indicate that residents of hibernacula that are 1-2 km apart (with suitable intervening habitat) probably interbreed (Prior et al. 1997, Blouin-Demers and Weatherhead 2002). However, "evidence of genetic structure even over short distances (e.g., 2-20 km) implies that gene flow among rat snake populations can be easily disrupted" (Prior et al. 1997). Loughheed et al. (1999) found evidence of substantial genetic exchange among local hibernacula (< 6 km apart), but gene flow over distances of 10s of km appears to be substantially less. Based on extensive radio-tracking data, Blouin-Demers and Weatherhead (2002) found that home range size of Pantherophis averaged 18.5 ha and ranged up to 93 ha; based on the most mobile individuals, Pantherophis from hibernacula up to 8 km apart can come together for mating. Pantherophis and probably other colubrids exhibit high fidelity to hibernacula and shift even to nearby sites only rarely (Prior et al. 2001).

Many of the several studies that report small home ranges for colubrids did not employ methods (e.g., radio telemetry) suitable for detecting full annual or multi-annual home range size, dispersal, or other long-distance movements, so these may have yielded underestimates of home ranges or activity areas.

At least some colubrids, including medium-sized species such as garter snakes, not uncommonly move between areas up to a few kilometers apart, and several species make extensive movements of up to several kilometers, so separation distances of 1-2 km for suitable habitat are too small for medium-sized and large colubrids.

A separation distance of 10 km for suitable habitat was selected as most appropriate for snakes assigned to this Specs Group because it seems generally unlikely that two locations separated by less than 10 km of suitable habitat would represent distinct occurrences.

For the purposes of these occurrence specifications, upland habitat is regarded as unsuitable habitat for aquatic and wetland snakes. For upland snakes, shallow or patchy wetlands are treated as unsuitable habitat whereas large deepwater habitats (subjective determination) are barriers.

Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): .5 km
Date: 12Feb2013
Author: Hammerson, G.
Notes: Separation distance for suitable habitat was changed from 5 km to 10 km based on comments from Dale Jackson (12 Feb 2013).
Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 09Apr2016
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Mitchell, J. C., C. A. Pague, & G. Hammerson
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 09Apr2016
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
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  • Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. 2015. Alabam's Wildlife Action Plan 2015-2025. Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. Montgomery, Alabama. 514 pages. [Available online at http://www.outdooralabama.com/sites/default/files/AL%20SWAP%20FINAL%20POST-REVIEW%2004-22-2016.pdf}

  • Cliburn, J.W. 1976. A key to the amphibians and reptiles of Mississippi. Fourth edition. Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, Jackson, Mississippi. 71 pp.

  • Conant, R. and J. T. Collins. 1991. A field guide to reptiles and amphibians: eastern and central North America. Third edition. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, Massachusetts. 450 pp.

  • Crother, B. I. (editor). 2008. Scientific and standard English names of amphibians and reptiles of North America north of Mexico, with comments regarding confidence in our understanding. Sixth edition. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles Herpetological Circular 37:1-84.

  • Crother, B. I. (editor). 2008. Scientific and standard English names of amphibians and reptiles of North America north of Mexico, with comments regarding confidence in our understanding. Sixth edition. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles Herpetological Circular 37:1-84. Online with updates at: http://www.ssarherps.org/pages/comm_names/Index.php

  • Crother, B. I. (editor). 2012. Scientific and standard English names of amphibians and reptiles of North America north of Mexico, with comments regarding confidence in our understanding. 7th edition. SSAR Herpetological Circular 39:1-92.

  • Crother, B. I., J. Boundy, J. A. Campbell, K. de Queiroz, D. R. Frost, R. Highton, J. B. Iverson, P. A. Meylan, T. W. Reeder, M. E. Seidel, J. W. Sites, Jr., T. W. Taggart, S. G. Tilley, and D. B. Wake. 2000 [2001]. Scientific and standard English names of amphibians and reptiles of North America north of Mexico, with comments regarding confidence in our understanding. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, Herpetological Circular No. 29. 82 pp.

  • Dundee, H.E., and D.A. Rossman. 1989. The amphibians and reptiles of Louisiana. Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge. 300 pp.

  • Frost, D. R., and J. T. Collins. 1988. Nomenclatural notes on reptiles of the United States. Herpetol. Rev. 19:73-74.

  • Krysko, K.L., L.P. Nuņez, C.E.Newman, and B.W. Bowen. 2017. Phylogenetics of Kingsnakes, Lampropeltis getula complex (Serpentes: Colubridae), in Eastern North America. Journal of Heredity:1-13.

  • Lohoefener, R. and R. Altig. 1983. Mississippi herpetology. Mississippi State University Research Center, NSTL Station, Mississippi. 66 pp.

  • Mirarchi, R.E., editor. 2004. Alabama Wildlife. Volume 1. A checklist of vertebrates and selected invertebrates: aquatic mollusks, fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. The University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa, Alabama. 209 pages.

  • Mount, R. H. 1975. The reptiles and amphibians of Alabama. Auburn University Agricultural Experiment Station, Auburn, Alabama. vii + 347 pages.

  • Mount, R.H. 1975. The reptiles and amphibians of Alabama. Auburn University, Agricultural Experiment Station, Auburn. 347 pp.

  • Pyron, R. A, and F. T. Burbrink. 2009. Systematics of the Common Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula; Serpentes: Colubridae) and the burden of heritage in taxonomy. Zootaxa 2241:22-32.

  • Pyron, R. A., and F. T. Burbrink. 2009. Systematics of the Common Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula; Serpentes: Colubridae) and the burden of heritage in taxonomy. Zootaxa 2241:22-32.

  • Shelton-Nix, E. 2017. Alabama Wildlife, Volume 5. University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa, Alabama. 355 pages.

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