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Impurest's guide to Animals #2 - Milk Snake

Hey time for Issue #2 of Impurest Cheese’s Guide to Animals. Last week the adorable Common Genet was in the spotlight. This time we have a totally different (yet still beautiful animal) in the spotlight. Hope you guys enjoy.


Issue #2 – Milk Snake


Kingdom – Animalia

Phylum – Chordata

Class – Reptilia

Order – Squamata

Family - Colubrinaie

Genus – Lampropeltis

Species – trianulum

Related Species –Assumed to be closely related to King Snakes although any taxonomists must take into account that the family Colubrinaie is a waste basket taxon for all snakes that defy easy classification (1)



Snakes! Why did it have to be snakes?

The Milksnake is a medium sized snake that can grow over a meter long and is found right across the new world. Like all snakes the Milk Snake is carnivorous and feeds mainly on rodents, reptiles and large invertebrates which it kills using constriction. The species is nocturnal and avoids most predators that would hunt it relying on its bright colours, which are similar to the highly venomous Eastern Coral Snake (Micrurus fulvius), to avoid predation. Milk Snake populations that live outside the range of coral snakes often mimic the coloration and vocalisations of a second species, the Massasuga Rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus) to avoid predation (2).

The deadly Eastern Coral Snake (Note the patterning of the bands [3])
The deadly Eastern Coral Snake (Note the patterning of the bands [3])

The normal coloured populations can be identified by the banding on the body. Milk Snake colouration goes in the following pattern; Red, Black, Yellow, Black whereas the Coral Snake’s colouration is arranged; Black, Yellow, Red, Yellow. An easy way to remember is one of the several rhymes such as Red on Black, Venom Lack, Red on Yellow, Kills a Fellow. Despite this easy identification Milk Snakes often become victims of misidentification and are frequently killed on discovery. It should also be mentioned that this method of identification isn't reliable with the Asian Species of Coral Snake and that if you find a snake in the wild don't attempt to handle it without the proper training.

Milk Snakes are suitable for captive breeding and can live up to twelve years if kept in good condition. Wild caught specimens are easy to identify as the snakes get a lot of wear and tear on their bodies when they reach adult sizes. Like most snakes they lay eggs, usually in June and July with the young hatching in September. Juvenile animals usually stay underground where they eat worms mostly because they lack the protective colouration of the adults.

Honduran Subspecies of Milk Snake [4]
Honduran Subspecies of Milk Snake [4]

Five Fun Milk Snake Facts

There are around twenty four subspecies of milk snake, each one with their own distinctive patterning although they all feature red and black bands that touch easy other.

Milk Snakes got their name for the large numbers that hibernate and feed in barns. Early farmer used to believe the snakes had come inside to drink milk directly from the cows and were labelled as milk thieves.

The Milk Snake isn't the only Coral Snake mimic in the United Snakes. The unrelated (yet equally harmless) Scarlet Snake (Cemophora coccinea) has similar colouration

A disturbed Milk Snake (even the species with Coral colouration) will rattle its tail against leaves as a threat. This is particularly evident in the with the rattlesnake mimicking sub-species

Milk Snakes are very hardy: they remain active in very hot temperature extremes while other snakes are underground in a torpid state. (3)



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Picture References

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Hope you guys enjoyed the insight into this beautiful creature. Drop me a comment with an animal you want explored in the next issue.