GRAY BANDED KINGSNAKES
These snakes are usually referred to by local herpers as either "gray bands" or "alterna". There are two basic morphs. The alterna morph which generally has black bands with little or no orange and usually alternating spots between the bands. The blairs morph usually has orange saddles and sometimes a row or two of spots between the bands.
As the following pictures will show, there is great variation in the colors and patterns of L. alterna. There is great variation within populations and there are charcteristic differences between populations. Val Verde and Terrell county populations tend to be "typical" blairs and alterna morphs. Interestingly, in Val Verde county the alterna morphs are more commonly found in the eastern part of the county than in the western part. The river road tends to have mostly alterna morphs with speckling. The Black Gap Road alterna often have a lot of indiscriminate white in the patterns. The Davis Mtns. alterna are generally darker alterna morphs. However, I have seen snakes from eastern Val Verde county which look like river road or Black Gap Rd. animals, and I have seen snakes from Black Gap and the river road which look like Val Verde or Terrell county animals. This great variation and their overall beauty is what has made them one of the most sought-after snakes.
Throughout much of the range, particularly the eastern counties, they are a fairly common snake. However, they are found more commonly under certain conditions. I have found that a barometric pressure of 29.83 to 29.95 is optimum. A southeast wind of 10-20 MPH is optimum. I have rarely found alterna when the wind has been easterly. The coolest air temperature at which I have found alterna was 63F, the hottest was 90F. The majority have been found between 75F and 85F. Please understand that these are what I consider optimum conditions, not the only conditions. After a 90 MPH wind storm, I found two in one hour when the wind had died down to 30 MPH. Tommy Yarborough found an adult swimming on the Pecos River bridge during a downpour. Many have been found after heavy rains.
The most I have found in one night has been four. Three of these were found in nine minutes, including a mating pair. Some nights the only alterna found have been caught in a 15 or 20 minute period. In Val Verde county I have caught a fair amount of alterna when the moon was full. In the Big Bend, the snakes seem to disappear when a bright moon rises. If you happen to be on the river road when a storm is moving in, hunt like crazy. Often the snakes are whipping across the road to get to high ground. The main factor in finding alterna is PERSISTENCE, followed by LUCK.
I found this light alterna morph female on Hwy. 90 in Langtry in 1976. Only about 1 out of 100 snakes from the langtry area is an alterna morph.This was my ONLY alterna morph from western Val Verde County.
This 40" blairs morph is from Hwy. 90, west of Langtry, western Val Verde County. Notice that the orange bands continue through the tail. Usually, the banding on the tail is black.
This snake is from Hwy. 90, east of Sanderson, Terrell County.
This dark alterna morph male was found on Black Gap Rd., Brewster County.
This alterna morph male was found on Hwy. 170, the river road, Presidio County.
These alterna were found in the same area in the Davis Mountains, Jeff Davis County. Please note that the average hunter will find one alterna for every 35 nights of hunting in this area. The one on the left is a male. The female, on the right, was found just a few minutes after it was run over by a novice hunter. Please, don't hunt areas that are beyond your experience.