Last week I was working in the backyard and discovered an Eastern Kingsnake eating another Eastern Kingsnake!  This a one-in-a-million chance encounter with one our most incredible native snake species that is found throughout Georgia and the Southeast.  I quickly ran inside the house to get my nine-year-old son to come out and watch this amazing site with me. 

The Kingsnake was about half-way through its dinner, consuming the other Kingsnake headfirst.  It took another thirty minutes for this snake to finish swallowing the other Kingsnake until the tip of the tail was all that was left in his mouth. Both snakes were about the same size, roughly three feet long, making this an unlikely matchup for eating their own kind. 

Eastern Kingsnake eating an Eastern Kingsnake

Kingsnakes are one of the many good, non-venomous snakes found in Georgia.  In our region, kingsnakes are active almost exclusively by day but are most active in the morning during the summer. They are strong constrictors and consume a variety of prey including snakes, lizards, rodents, birds, and especially turtle eggs.

Kingsnakes are resistant to the venom of pit-vipers and they readily eat copperheads, cottonmouths, and rattlesnakes. This is a good reason to leave Kingsnakes alone and be thankful if you ever find one in your backyard. Although they frequently rattle their tail, release musk, and bite upon capture, they generally tame quickly and are often kept as pets.

A major reason many people fear snakes is that some are venomous. Of the 46 kinds of snakes found in Georgia, only six species are venomous. The two most common venomous species in Bartow County areCopperheadsand Timber Rattlesnakes—which have distinct markings that are easily identifiable. Other venomous snakes include Cottonmouths andPygmy Rattlesnakes, which are found only on rare occasions in this part of Georgia.  Coral snakes and Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes are generally only found south of Macon in Georgia.

Snake bites are rare accidents. Fewer people are killed by snakes than by lightning.  The probability of dying in a car accident far exceeds the chance of ever being bitten by a venomous snake.  Also, as many as half of all bites by venomous snakes are mild or “dry” bites in which little or no venom is injected.  More than half of U.S. snakebite victims were bitten while handling the snake, and more than two-thirds saw the snake before being bitten—usually in an attempt to kill, capture, or harass it.

The best defense is knowledge: learn to recognize local venomous snakes. “Snakes of Georgia and South Carolina” is a good reference for snake identification. This publication can be viewed online for free at  Keep in mind that most snakes in Georgia are protected species by law, and therefore should not be killed.  In fact, it is illegal to kill non-venomous snakes in Georgia, punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and a year in jail. Take a moment to learn more about the many beautiful snakes that we have in Georgia and appreciate their role in keeping nature in balance. 

Paul Pugliese is the Extension Coordinator and Agricultural & Natural Resources Agent for Bartow County Cooperative Extension, a partnership of The University of Georgia, The U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Bartow County.  For more information and free farm, lawn, or garden publications, call (770) 387-5142 or visit our local website at

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