Commonly known as a milk snake or milksnake, this species of Kingsnake, Lampropeltis triangulum, is a group of non-venomous snakes. Often mistaken with venomous snakes like coral snakes, these milk snakes pose no threat to humans. There are 24 subspecies of milk snakes recognized now. The Scarlet Kingsnake was earlier a part of this subspecies, but later on, classified as a different species. The subspecies of milk snakes have striking differences in colors and the range of distribution is also vast. They are not venomous to humans and are kept as pets in many parts of the world. The milk snake also has a different range in size when traveling through its entire habitat.
These species are nocturnal and terrestrial. When we compare the coral snake vs milk snake, apart from the former's venomous nature, the coral snake has red and yellow alternating bands and the milk snakes have red and black bands. If you see blotches, the chances of the snake being the venomous coral snake become lower. The subspecies will probably be a variant of milksnakes. The Eastern Milksnake is the most common milk snake subspecies seen and found mostly in Maine, Ontario, Alabama, and North Carolina.
Insects, lizards, slugs, and earthworms, birds eggs, reptiles eggs, small mammals
What do they eat?
Average litter size?
How much do they weigh?
1.6-3.1 lb (750-1400 g)
How long are they?
13.7-68.9 in (35-175 cm)
How tall are they?
What do they look like?
Alternating bands of different color pattern
Dry shiny scales
What are their main threats?
What is their conservation status?
Where you'll find them
Variety of habitats, rocks, barns, rotting logs
Canada, continental US, Central America, South America
Milk Snake Interesting Facts
What type of animal is a Milk Snake?
Milk Snakes are a type of non-venomous snake of the family Colubridae.
What class of animal does a Milk Snake belong to?
Milk Snakes fall under the class of Reptilia in the kingdom of Animalia.
How many Milk Snakes are there in the world?
The IUCN Red List states that the species and subspecies of Milk Snakes are common and widespread throughout its range of habitats. The exact population numbers are not available.
Where does a Milk Snake live?
A search for this species of snakes can take longer as the geographical range of the Milksnakes is wider than most snakes. Captivity of this snake is also very popularly accepted, and the population in captivity of this species is in thousands. In their natural habitat, the milksnakes can be found north of Ontario and Quebec, and as far as south of Venezuela. This range goes to Mexico and Central America. Only the West Coast in the US does not have any population of the milksnakes. The population is also found to the south of Ecuador.
Among the subspecies, the eastern milk snake lives in the mountains of northern Georgia and northwestern South Carolina. The red milk snake has its population living only in the North American part of the country.
Virginia has a higher population of venomous reptiles, so confusion between the milk snakes and these poisonous beings should not be made.
What is a Milk Snake's habitat?
Due to the broad range of these subspecies, milk snakes can survive in a range of habitats. The species likes living in open habitats such as rocky hillsides, fields, and forest edges. Milk Snakes are usually found in forested regions and live inside rotting logs. In rural areas, they are found in and near barns and also near rocks, where there is always a continuous flow of mice for them to diet on. Barns are a common habitat for these subspecies of Milk Snakes. The foundation of old buildings is another area they are extensively found. The species is also found near small streams or marshes. During winter, they move to drier and higher habitats for hibernation. In the summer, they move to moister pastures.
Who do Milk Snakes live with?
These species of snakes do not fear human proximity, so are able to live near human settlements. Although, they are very shy and live a secretive life. That is why the Milk Snakes are used as pets by humans.
How long does a Milk Snake live?
Proper milk snake care in captivity can prolong the life of these animals to 20 years. In the wild, they live up to the age of 15 years.
How do they reproduce?
Reproduction takes place from March to May. After hibernation, the females are known to leave a trail of pheromones when the female starts ovulating during the mating season. The males follow this trail. The males and females are known to copulate for hours to fend of other male species from the ovulating females.
The female lays 10-24 eggs a month after mating. Rotting logs, beneath the soil, or near rocks are places where the eggs are placed. For proper incubation, a warm and humid place is needed. Incubation of the eggs is for one to two months. The male and female do not take part in parental care after the eggs are hatched.
The young snakes or hatchlings have a length of six to seven inches after birth. Sexual maturity for reproduction is achieved at three or four years for the young snakes.
What is their conservation status?
These species of milksnakes are too common to be included in the IUCN Red List. Apart from becoming roadkill, they are not in much danger. Although, the Pet Trade has now gone up a gear in recent times which has affected the lives of these snakes.
Milk Snake Fun Facts
What do Milk Snakes look like?
Milk Snakes have well-defined glossy scales on their body. There are 24 milk snake morphs currently recognized. There are even subspecies milk snakes that have blotches instead of bands on their body. The other species have a changed coloration in their band. These bands are usually white, red, and black. The lighter areas separating this coloration are usually white, yellow, or orange. This yellow or white area is different from the coral snakes. The milksnakes have a border in the yellow area.
Bodies are usually gray or tan and have a Y or V-shaped patch on the neck. Subspecies differ as there are brown-colored black-bordered blotches on the sides of the body, and also some with red, orange, or yellow/white blotches with colored borders. The belly of the milksnakes has a black-on-white checkerboard look.
The Red Milk Snake has a red-colored body with shiny scales. The other pattern on the red milk snake is white colored with black borders. It is alternated with red dorsal saddles. Both these subspecies and coral snakes have bands of black, red, and yellow. That is why the confusion of the two exists.
The male and female have the same length, color, and pattern in the body. So, differentiation is tough. The milk snake size is however smaller than other poisonous snakes. The hatchlings are usually born brightly colored, but lose that coloration once they mature. The brown-colored body is more common afterward.
How cute are they?
Milksnakes are beautiful with their bright colorations and diversity with each subspecies.
How do they communicate?
Communication is usually through pheromones and tail rattling, along with hissing.
How big is a Milk Snake?
Milksnakes vary in size with each habitat, but generally, the length ranges between 13.7-68.9 in (35-175 cm).
How fast can a Milk Snake move?
They are pretty fast when threatened or startled. They can hide very quickly.
How much does a Milk Snake weigh?
The weight of milksnakes ranges from 1.6-3.1 lb (750-1400 g).
What are their male and female names of the species?
The male and female species have not been given different names.
What would you call a baby Milk Snake?
A baby milksnake is called a juvenile or hatchling.
What do they eat?
The milk snake diet includes rodents, birds, eggs of birds, reptile eggs, lizards, and snake eggs. Apart from snake eggs, they are also known to feed on other snakes including venomous ones. Milksnakes are also known to prey on small mammals and fish. The teeth are small in these species, so they prey on other animals by suffocating them and then swallowing the prey as a whole. Catching mice in barns of rural areas is a hobby for the Milk Snakes.
The young feed on invertebrates and then change their diet to other mammals and birds, and bird eggs as they grow older.
Are they dangerous?
Having a striking resemblance to the milk snake, the poisonous copperhead snakes and the coral snakes are often mistaken for the milk snake. They are species of venomous snakes, whereas milk snakes are not.
Would they make a good pet?
The milk snake pet idea is great as these reptiles are not big, are non-venomous, beautifully vibrant, and grow friendly with age.
Did you know...
They are usually shy, and only bite if provoked. They are not poisonous at all. It might hurt a little, but due to their small teeth, the pain subsides fast.
The price of milksnakes varies from $60-$150 depending on the subspecies. Their price can go even higher.
They are pretty hardy and don't need extensive care. They are a good pet for beginners.
Types of Milk Snake
There are 24 recognized subspecies of Milk snakes known to man. A few of them that are found extensively are: Eastern Milk Snake (Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum), Nelson's Milk Snake/Albino Milk Snake (Lampropeltis triangulum nelsoni), Mexican Milk Snake (Lampropeltis triangulum annulata), Red Milk Snake (L. triangulum syspila), Sinaloan Milk Snake (L. t. sinaloae), Black Milk Snake (L. t. gaigeae), Tangerine Milk Snake/Honduran Milk Snake (L. t. hondurensis), Andean Milk Snake (L. t. andesiana), and Pueblan Milk Snake (L. t. campbelli). There are 15 more subspecies of milk snakes too.
Why are they called Milk Snakes?
It was believed that milksnakes could milk cows, but that is considered to be a pure myth.
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