Pure white is not a common color in the natural world, especially when it comes to snakes. Although unusual, there are some snakes with white colors and patterns. Many all-white snakes in the wild are the result of rare genetic mutations, like albinism and leucism. However, these luminously white snakes stand out and can be easily seen by predators. And yet despite their rarity (or perhaps because of it), white snakes hold a strong allure for many people and are coveted in the pet world. Let’s take a look at some of the beautiful wild and captive-bred white snakes in our world today.
1. California Kingsnake
The California kingsnake is a subspecies of the common kingsnake. This is a very striking snake with a sharp contrast of colored stripes, splotches, or rings. California kingsnakes can be either brown and red, or black and white. There are many different color morphs of the California kingsnake, both in the wild as well as from selective breeding. Typical black and white California kingsnakes have dark brown or black bodies, marked with distinct white or pale-yellow rings or bands. These bands can be thin and delicate, or broad and more prominent than the base black coloring. The snake’s head also has a black splotch on top with a distinct white “T” in the middle of it. These snakes are common as pets, but they can also be found in the wild of northern Mexico and the western regions of the United States.
As extremely popular pets, there are several color variants of California kingsnakes that have been selectively bred in captivity as well. These snakes may be black or white, with black or white rings, splotches, or long stripes running along the length of their bodies. Reverse dotted California kingsnakes, for example, are almost completely white with two rows of black spots along their backs. A stripe California kingsnake, on the other hand, has a white belly and black back, with a bright white stripe running down the middle of its back.
2. Bandy-Bandy Snake
The Bandy-bandy is a snake endemic to Australia. These snakes have very smooth, glossy scales with black and white (or pale-yellow) banded patterns along the length of their bodies. The bandy-bandy snake typically measures between 20-30 inches in length with a round, slender body and small head. There are six species of bandy-bandy snakes that live in various habitats and regions across Australia. These snakes are venomous, but they are not typically aggressive and are rarely encountered by humans. Bandy-bandy snakes are ophiophagous and only eat other snakes, especially blind snakes.
The bright, contrasting colors of bandy-bandy snakes do not blend in well with their environment. Instead, these snakes burrow beneath soil, rocks, and logs for protection, and typically only come out at night. When faced with a predator, the bandy-bandy snake has two primary methods of defense. The snake moves quickly and randomly, causing its stark black and white colors “flicker” and create confusion, particularly in low lighting. This display is referred to as “flicker fusion”.
This snake’s second defense is quite unique. When threatened, a bandy-bandy snake can coil its body into a “hoop” shape, making it appear much larger and hopefully more threatening to its predator. Because of this, sometimes the bandy-bandy snake is sometimes called a “hoop snake” as well.
3. Common Kingsnake (or Eastern Kingsnake)
The common kingsnake, or Eastern kingsnake, is an elegant black snake with thin, white ring- or chain-like markings along the length of its body. Because of this, it is sometimes also called the “chain kingsnake”. Depending on where the snake lives, these white bands are sometimes wider. Their bellies are white or pale yellow with black “chains” or “zigzag” patterns as well. On average, common kingsnakes grow between 36-48 inches long. These snakes live in the southeastern United States, where they hunt and eat small mammals and snakes.
4. Long-Nosed Snake
The Long-Nosed Snake has a white or cream-colored body with alternating red and black bands or blotches along its back. These crossbands are speckled with tiny white or cream dots, making the snake’s colors and patterns look somewhat pixelated. Sometimes these snakes are only black and white, with little to no red coloring. Long-nosed snakes are 20-30 inches in length, with distinctly elongated, upturned snouts. These snakes live in a few regions of Mexico, as well as the western United States. Long-nosed snakes prefer dry, arid habitats, like deserts and scrubland, where they hunt and eat lizards and amphibians. These snakes are nonvenomous and rarely bite.
5. Florida Pine Snake
The Florida pine snake is a large snake with a heavy body, measuring between 48-84 inches in length. This snake is white (and sometimes tan or rust-colored) with dark blotches. On occasion, a Florida pine snake may lack dark blotches, appearing almost entirely white or cream in color, possibly with a few dark speckles here and there. These snakes have small heads with pointed snouts. The scales above the snake’s eyes are slightly ridged, making it look like the snake is “angry”. Like its name, the Florida Pine Snake lives in Florida, as well as Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama. In Florida, these snakes are considered “threatened species” and are protected by state laws.
6. Crab-Eating Water Snake (or White-Bellied Mangrove Snake)
The crab-eating water snake (or white-bellied mangrove snake) comes in a wide range and variety of colors and patterns. In southern Asia, for example, this snake is often grey or black with some dark blotches. However, in New Guinea and Australia, these snakes can be just about any color, from black and white piebald to yellow, orange, or red with black and white blotches. Crab-eating water snakes only grow up to 35 inches in length, but they have surprisingly strong bodies. Their strong bodies help to take down their preferred prey: crabs, shrimp, and mud lobsters.
The crab-eating water snake is one of the very few snakes that eats its prey piece by piece, rather than swallowing it whole. This snake uses its strong body to capture crabs, injecting them with paralyzing venom. When the crab has succumbed, the snake deliberately pulls off each of the crab’s legs, eating them one leg at a time. Crab-eating water snakes will eat the body of smaller crabs; however, with larger crabs they only eat the legs.
7. Ghost Snake
The Ghost Snake is a more recently discovered snake species, first seen in northern Madagascar’s Ankarana National Park in 2014. Its scientific name is “Madagascarophis lolo”. “Madagascarophis” applies to several “cat-eyed” snakes in Madagascar, that have vertical pupils like those of a cat. “Lolo” (pronounced “luu luu”) is a Malagasy word that means “ghost”. These ghost-like snakes are named for their elusive behavior, as well as their coloring. These snakes quite literally look like ghostly apparitions rather than living snakes. Ghost snakes are extremely pale with light gray and white patterns along the length of their bodies.
Genetic Mutations in Snakes: Albino vs Leucistic Snakes
In addition to these “naturally” white snakes, there are often anomalies—that is, naturally colored snakes that are instead born without color due to a rare genetic mutation. Albino snakes, for example, lack melanin in their genetics. Melanin is one of the pigments that creates color in a snake’s body, so albino snakes are commonly white. However, there are other pigments that create color, such as the red or orange shades of carotenoids. Since carotenoid pigments are not affected by albino mutations, albino snakes are white but also have pale pink or pale-yellow undertones. In addition, albino snakes are easy to identify because they have red eyes.
Leucistic snakes, on the other hand, have a much larger range of variability when it comes to color (or the lack thereof). Leucism affects the production of all types of pigmentation in snake genetics, including both melanin and carotenoids. The amount of pigment affected by the mutation, however, varies with each individual snake. Some snakes will have absolutely no color, while others only experience a partial loss of color. For example, one leucistic snake could be 100% white, whereas another snake may have white patches or spots, and yet another may only have muted colors. One of the easiest ways to tell the difference between an albino snake and a leucistic snake is the color of the snake’s eyes. If a snake has red eyes, it is albino. If a snake has blue eyes or darker colored eyes, it is leucistic.
8. Wild Snakes with Albino and Leucistic Mutations
Both albino and leucistic genetic mutations occur in the natural world. For example, the slaty-grey snake in Australia has a dark brown body. However, in 2017 leucistic slaty-grey snake was found in the Northern Territory. This snake had a beautiful and brilliantly white body, with black, round eyes.
In 2014, the San Diego Zoo introduced Adhira, an extremely rare white monocled cobra. Her name means “lightning” in Hindi, alluding to her stark white coloring. Adhira is a leucistic cobra (not albino), as her eyes are dark rather than red.
White Snakes in the Pet World
Breeders all over the world have spent years breeding captive snakes of various species to have white colors and patterns. Today, there are many types of white-patterned and white-colored snakes that you can find as pets. Here are just a few examples:
9. Ball Python
The Blue-Eyed Lucy is a very popular leucistic color morph of the ball python. The pure white bodies of these snakes highlight their striking blue eyes like the perfect combination of sparkling snow and piercing ice. The ivory ball python, on the other hand, is also white, but instead with a more creamy, ivory tone. The pied ball python has very sharp and distinct blocks of white color, interspersed with the colors and patterns of a typical ball python. It almost appears to be a white python that was strategically painted in a few places, or a colored python that accidentally fell into some white paint.
10. Corn Snake
Corn Snakes are extremely popular pets, because they are docile, hardy, and relatively easy to care for. These snakes come in an endless array of colors and patterns, including, of course, white. Albino corn snakes, for example, have red eyes and white bodies with pink or peach-colored patterns and undertones. A blizzard corn snake, on the other hand, is bright white without these undertones. These snakes may have red or dark eyes, depending on their lineage. Another popular color morph is the palmetto corn snake. These snakes are bright white as well, but they are also sprinkled with tiny colored speckles along the length of their bodies.
11. Reticulated Python
Reticulated pythons are the longest snakes in the world and can reach lengths of 20-32 feet! These snakes are also the third heaviest snake in the world and are best suited for extremely experienced snake owners. Phantom morph reticulated pythons reduce the colors and patterns from their original coloring, resulting in snakes that are solid white or have white patterns on a pinkish-white body.
12. Western Hognose Snake
The Western hognose snake is another very popular pet in the United States, with over 60 different captive-bred color morphs. Albino hognose snakes are white with pink or orange undertones and red eyes. Super arctic Western hognose snakes, on the other hand, have creamy white bodies with black-rimmed brown splotches. Coral snow hognose snakes look similar to the albino snakes, but these also have additional pale pink and purple patterns along their bodies.