A Species in Decline
In recent years, Common Kingsnakes (Lampropeltis getula) and Florida (floridana) have virtually disappeared from much of their range in Florida, southern Georgia, and southeastern Alabama. Although known primarily from anecdoctal reports, these declines have appeared to occur at an alarming rate. In some regions, kingsnakes have gone from common to apparently absent in less than a decade. No discernable pattern of these declines has been determined, as the species may be undetectable across large areas yet still locally abundant in others. So far, the eastern (getula) and Florida (floridana) subspecies appear to be the only taxa affected, but other races are being watched closely.
Scientists are puzzled by these declines, which do not follow the patterns normally associated with invasive species, development/sprawl, known diseases, or unsustainable harvest.
Fire ants have been implicated in the decline of many native species since their introduction near Mobile Bay, Alabama, in the mid 20th century. These impacts usually radiate outward from the central Gulf Coast in a relatively uniform pattern. While fire ants have no doubt taken a toll, kingsnake declines appear to be centered considerably east of the inoculation point and do not follow the geographic pattern generally associated with ant-related extirpations.
While clearly a source of stress, development-related habitat fragmentation does not explain declines on large, relatively remote public lands such as the Conecuh, Ocala and Apalachicola National Forests.
Disease may also play a role but more research is needed to identify which, if any, pathogens are involved.
In the past few decades, advances in reptile husbandry have taken pressure off of wild snake populations by providing the pet industry with a renewable supply of captive-bred specimens. Most kingsnake declines have been noted in the years since commercial collection began to wane.