I am not afraid of snakes, but I do have a healthy respect for them. I instantly recognized this fellow (gal?) as a kingsnake, so I knew I wasn't in any danger; they're non-venomous. I've stumbled across more than my share of rattlesnakes over the years, so I've learned to be cautious.
Speaking of rattlesnakes, the two most terrifying encounters I've had with them have been while training for endurance races. In the first, I was with two friends cantering up Rancheria Road in east Bakersfield. My two friends were ahead of me. At the exact moment that I heard the tell-tale rattle, my Montoya did a 180 at a the canter. As I sailed off over her shoulder, I knew there was a rattlesnake ahead as I could hear it as I was flying through the air. I responded just like a cartoon character. My feet were running before my butt hit the ground. I didn't know exactly where it was in relationship to where I landed, but I didn't wait long enough to see. When the whole thing was over and we were all safely past, we laughed hysterically as both friends had seen my legs pinwheeling through the air as I tried to run even before landing!
The morning had warmed up quite a bit during our ride. As we approached the canyon, Montoya saw the rattlesnake before either one of us did. She again whirled away, hitting a berm in the process tumbling both herself and my friend to the ground. Both were unhurt, so my friend remounted. As we tried to again enter the canyon, Montoya spooked a second time at yet another rattler, unceremoniously dumping my friend again.
California kingsnakes prey on rats, mice, birds, amphibians, and best of all, other snakes including rattlesnakes. According to Wikipedia, "The "king" in their name refers to their propensity to hunt and eat other snakes, including venomous rattlesnakes, that are commonly indigenous to their natural habitat. California kingsnakes are naturally resistant to the venom of rattlesnakes, but are not totally immune."
This kingsnake, or the pair if I really spotted two of them, is more than welcome to take up residence at the ranch. And if it is a pair, our fingers are crossed that we see babies later this fall.