Identification: Black kingsnakes are only locally common in parts of Indiana and are easily confused with other black snakes. Kingsnakes are relatively robust with an indistinct neck and head and glossy, smooth scales. While juvenile kingsnakes are black with thin white bands and scattered speckles, most adult kingsnakes in Indiana are almost all black on top, with few scattered speckles. The scales above the mouth are white and bordered with black, giving a unique black and white "piano key" barred pattern to the mouth. Kingsnakes are not as large as other Indiana black snakes and most large adults are around three to four feet (0.9 - 1.2 m) long.
Similar Species: With their speckled pattern and shiny smooth scales, these are probably the most distinctive of Indiana's black snakes. Eastern racers are more slender with a long tail and no dorsal pattern as adults. Black ratsnakes usually have more extensive dorsal patterning, have slightly keeled scales, and a bread loaf-shaped body. Both of these other species lack the black and white bars on the lip scales that are so unique to black kingsnakes.
Distribution: Black kingsnakes are found throughout much of southern Indiana and into west-central Indiana along the Wabash River. Though most often associated with open habitats such as old fields and meadows, black kingsnakes may inhabit woodlands, especially near forest edges. They are commonly found along wetland margins and tend to prefer moist environments. Most commonly found under cover or crossing roads, these snakes spend much of their time under ground and out of sight.