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Slithering into your heart

This article first appeared in the July 26, 2020 edition of the Davis Enterprise

Slithering into your heart

One of the Explorit resident California king snakes, Lizzie, wraps up with Explorit educator Gideon Alston. Photo by Sara Thompson

Slithering into your heart


By Sara Thompson

Special to the Enterprise


Snakes are odd animals and are often feared because of their lack of legs and cultural reputations.  Ophidiophobia is the second most common animal phobia, affecting nearly 1/3 of adults.  Despite their looks and common placed fear, snakes are essential to their ecosystems and are not terrible animals once you know more about them.

California kingsnakes are a native species to California and are not venomous.  They are well adapted to our climate, and like most snakes they can survive only needing to eat every week or two.  Like most snakes, kingsnakes will slither away from danger if disturbed, choosing to coil and warn only when not able to escape.  Kingsnakes will coil and hide their head when threatened, and even shake the end of their tail, generating a similar sound to a rattlesnake to ward off a predator.  As a last resort, snakes bite, as it put them in more danger than just trying to hide.

California kingsnakes feed primarily on mice, rats, young squirrels, amphibians, small birds, and other reptiles.  Like pythons and boas, kingsnakes are constrictors, wrapping themselves around their prey and suffocating them.  It has been found that kingsnakes have the strongest squeeze in proportion to their body size of all the constrictors.  California kingsnakes can and do eat other snakes, which is where the term ‘kingsnake’ comes from.  California kingsnakes are even resistant to rattlesnake venom and eat them as well.

Snakes of all varieties are important to their ecosystems because they hunt and eat animals that can be harmful to humans.  Mice and rats are attracted to human populations because of the abundance of food.  Many rodents, however, can carry diseases into these population centers or spoil food stores.  Snakes help keep the rodent populations down and are themselves not harmful to humans unless threatened.  If you see a snake, give it space to escape and hide, and if you are concerned, contact local animal control authorities rather than trying to capture or kill the animal.

The campers in our Animal Adventurers Summer Science Camp this week were able to meet our two resident California kingsnakes, Lizzie and Felix.  They also learned about a variety of other native California animal species, several are right here in Mace Ranch Park and the surrounding area.  There are spaces still available in our August Summer Science Camps!  Registration available online at  Camp registration closes two weeks prior to the beginning of each camp.


Explorit's coming events:


•       Explorit Science Center has been providing hands- on science opportunities in Davis for 38 years!  Like many small businesses the closures have had a significant impact on our income.  Now is a great time to consider a donation to help Explorit continue to educate and inspire the scientists of tomorrow:


•       Continue to support Explorit during this uncertain time by becoming a member.  Membership grants you free visits to Explorit’s regular public hours, discounts on events, camps, and workshops, and gives you ASTC benefits.  For more information or to purchase or renew your membership visit or call Explorit at 530-756-0191.



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