Availability: Summer 2012
Pricing: $50 each
Back during the spring of 2005, I was helping Bill Murray (the less famous snake breeder version) run his table at a small Gainesville reptile show, when a man came up to talk to Bill about boas and mentioned how he had found a kingsnake crossing his driveway the previous weekend. I interrupted them right there! This man was Wayne Harrington, and he lived out in a marshy section of the Gulf Hammock region and would occasionally see kingsnakes crossing the road near his house! This was big news, as finding a kingsnake anywhere outside the canefields in Florida was pretty new to me at the time.
It took over a year, and I had to borrow a friend’s car to do it, but on May 1st, 2006 I drove north from my home in Clearwater to visit Wayne at his house in Levy County. As I drove north, the habitat turned from houses and commercial developments to almost pristine sandhill. As I neared Wayne’s house I took a few coastal side roads, and was surprised to see that mangroves were all but absent. Instead, there were expansive prairies of needlerush, dotted with little tree covered islands. This was very different from what I was used to seeing in the salt-marshes near Clearwater.
After meeting Wayne at his house, we took a quick tour of his property, then got in the car to drive out to some hiking trails. We barely got half a mile from his place before we saw the silhouette of a snake sitting on the road up in the distance. I floored it, and couldn’t believe my eyes when that silhouette on the road revealed itself to be a 40” female kingsnake! After I grabbed the snake I jumped up an down shouting various obscenities... This may have been the most excited I have ever gotten about finding a snake.
The next step was to collect a male to breed with my female, and this ended up taking a lot more work. I had fun exploring the habitat out there, but after over 10 visits with no kingsnakes, I didn't feel like I was ever going to find one.
Almost exactly 2 years to the day from when we found that first kingsnake, I found myself driving up to Wayne's house again for what might be my final trip out there. We put in every bit of effort we could that day, hiking for what seemed like endless miles over hammocks and marshes. We ended up back out on the main highway and decided to hike along the dirt road that led out to Wayne's driveway. This was like the walk of shame. I was beat, both mentally and physically. I held my head down, but that might have just been to keep the sun out of my eyes. As we turned the corner down his driveway, I looked up to see a large, banded snake slowly crossing about 20 feet up the driveway. I knew exactly what it was, and in a burst of life I ran up and grabbed the snake off the road. A big 63" male kingsnake! As I held him in disbelief, though startled at his capture, he made no attempt to bite, and to this day he never has. And that is how I collected my original pair of Gulf Hammock kingsnakes.
These snakes are eastern/Florida king intergrades, and thus range in pattern from that of a dark "squareback" Florida king to that of a pure eastern king. Their colors have been pretty consistent, being solid black with yellow bands, and typically no speckling. These hatch out big, and their subsequent growth rate is quite impressive too. I've heard descriptions of kingsnakes in this area at over 7'! While these claims might be exaggerated, it is a fact that the largest kingsnake ever recorded was just under 7' and came from the Florida/eastern intergrade zone in North Florida. If you're into size, there is a lot of potential in this line. Perhaps most endearing to me though is their calm, inquisitive nature right out of the egg!
Our first clutch of these in 2009 produced 2 anerythristic/axanthic offspring that failed to hatch on their own. Both of these snakes were fully formed, but died a few days after their eggs were slit. This color phase did not show up in subsequent breedings.
At present I'm working on producing F2s descended from my original pair's offspring. My ultimate goal with this project is to consistently produce examples with distinct patterns and bright yellow bands. I have passed on my wild-caught pair to a fellow locality enthusiast, and they have since become his favorite snakes.