• Habitat: Woods, meadows, river bottoms, farms and cities
  • Adult body length: 24 - 36 inches
  • Body length at hatching: 5½ - 11 inches
  • Breeding period: June - July
  • Young per year: 2 - 17 eggs
  • Life Expectancy: 21 years
  • Typical foods: small rodents, birds, lizards and snakes (including venomous snakes)
  • The Eastern Milk Snake is closely related to the Black Kingsnake, which also lives in Ohio.
Appearance

The Eastern Milk Snake is a relatively slender snake. The basic color of this snake is gray to tan. That color is broken with 3, sometimes 5, longitudinal rows of large, dark irregular spots. Some authors refer to these spots as blotches. The spots are reddish-brown or brown and have black borders. Those spots that occur in the middle of the back are much larger than those along the sides.
The Eastern Milk Snake looks something like the venomous Northern Copperhead Snake. They can be separated by the arrangement of the dark color along the back of the snake. Copperhead Snakes have dark bands of color that cross the back, rather than individual spots or blotches.

Range
Overall Range
The Eastern Milk Snake ranges throughout much of the northeastern United States from Maine southward in the Appalachians, and westward to parts of Minnesota and Iowa.
Range in Ohio
In Ohio this snake has been found in central, southern, and northwestern parts of the state.

Local Habitat
It lives in a variety of local habitats such as fields, woodlands, rocky hillsides and river bottoms. It often occurs on farms, and sometimes it wanders into houses.

Lifestyle

The Eastern Milk Snake suffers from one of the myths about snakes, that it milks cows. That belief/story plainly is not true. Also, people sometimes kill Eastern Milk Snakes because of their resemblance to the Northern Copperhead Snake.
Actually, the Eastern Milk Snake is a beneficial animal, especially on farms. It actively seeks out and feeds on mice and other small rodents that infest barns and other farm buildings.
The Eastern Milk Snake usually is secretive and hides under objects such as logs, boards and stones.

Links

ODNR, Division of Wildlife, 'Species A-Z Guide'

Ohio History Central, 'Eastern Milk Snake '

Umass Extension

Milksnakes are a subspecies of the Kingsnake. Legend has it that the snakes would slither into barns at night, curl around the legs of milk cows, and sup on their milk straight from the udder. And so they were named. Of course this isn’t true, it’s barely believable, but the name stuck. The New Mexico milk snake is timid and will provide little entertainment. Other subspecies, such as Stuart’s milk snake and Conant’s milk snake, are rare and expensive. These snakes are typically suitable for any home, with the appropriate attention. A healthy, well cared for milk snake can live up to 20 years. Coastal Plain Milksnake Photo courtesy of Corey Wickliffe. Close-up Photo of Coastal Plain Milksnake courtesy of John White. Habitats: Little is known about how this snake’s habitat preferences differ from the species from which it derives. Specimens have been found in agricultural fields near woodlands and in open pine and mixed hardwood. The black milk snake (Lampropeltis triangulum gaigeae) is gaining in popularity among the colubrid crowd and converting more than a few non-colubrid fans.It possesses nearly all of the traits reptile lovers want in a pet: easy to care for, easygoing personality and easy on the eyes.

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Eastern Milksnake

Lampropeltis t. triangulum

Background: The eastern milksnake is one of the more common snakes found in Connecticut. Its frequent occurrence in rodent-infested barns led to the erroneous belief that they suck milk from cows by night; hence the name milksnake. Milksnakes also are commonly found around houses and outbuildings. When discovered by people, this harmless snake is often mistaken for the venomous copperhead and killed. The majority of “venomous” snake reports come from anxious homeowners who believe they have a copperhead in the basement. With further investigation and a more accurate identification, these “copperheads” almost always turn out to be milksnakes. Either way, there is no reason to kill these snake species, venomous or not. Neither snake is aggressive unless handled.

Range: Eastern milksnakes range from southeastern Maine to central Minnesota, south to Tennessee and western North Carolina. They are common throughout Connecticut, except in New London county.

Milksnake sale

Description: Eastern milksnakes are small and slender. The head is narrow and only slightly wider at the base than the neck. The nape usually has a distinct light 'V-' or 'Y-shaped' patch. Adults have 3 to 5 rows of brown or reddish-brown blotches down the back, while young milksnakes have bright red blotches. The body is gray to tan, while the belly exhibits a black-and-white checkerboard pattern. Adults measure from 19 to 40 inches long.

Eastern milksnakes and northern copperheads can be distinguished by a few basic characteristics. The head of a copperhead is copper-colored and never marked, while the milksnake’s head has the light 'V-' or 'Y-shaped' mark. The copperhead has a wide triangle-shaped head joined to a narrow neck; the milksnake's head is narrow. The copperhead has only one row of crossbands down its heavy body in contrast to the milksnake’s 3 to 5 rows of blotches down a slender body. The milksnake has smooth scales while the copperhead has keeled scales (raised ridge along the center of each scale).

Habitat and Diet: Milksnakes occupy a variety of habitats, including farmland, disturbed areas, meadows, river bottoms, bogs, rocky hillsides, and coniferous and deciduous forests. To support milksnakes, these habitat types must have plenty of cover and a healthy rodent population. Milksnakes spend the colder months in subterranean dens in drier sites.

This active, usually nocturnal hunter feeds mainly on mice, but will also take other small mammals, other snakes, birds and their eggs, and slugs. Milksnakes are constrictors. After striking and seizing prey, they quickly wrap their bodies around the prey animal. Constrictors do not actually squeeze prey to death but instead suffocate it. When the prey animal exhales, the snake constricts, preventing the prey from inhaling. Snakes must swallow their prey whole; therefore, killing the prey prior to ingestion reduces the risk of injury to the snake from bites and scratches.

Life History: Adults breed in June with females laying clutches of 6 to 24 (13 is average) eggs in loose soil or rotting logs from mid-June to July. The eggs incubate for a period of 42 to 56 days with hatchlings emerging in late August to October. The young that emerge are brightly colored, but the color dulls as the snakes age.

Interesting Facts: Milksnakes are secretive and often go unnoticed as they spend most of their time hidden under logs, boards, rocks, or other debris. They seldom bask in the open and are active mainly at night.

When first encountered, a milksnake either remains motionless or attempts to crawl away. If thoroughly disturbed, it may vibrate the tip of its tail rapidly and strike repeatedly. However, the teeth can barely puncture skin. Snakes bite only to capture food or in defense. Defensive biting in all snakes, venomous or not, is a last resort. If a snake must bite in defense, it has entered into a direct confrontation with a predator and risk of injury to the snake is high. Snakes will always attempt to escape before entering into a direct confrontation.

Snakes and People

Take the time to learn about, understand, and respect this vitally important reptile, and share your knowledge with others. Understanding that the milksnake is non-venomous is important. If startled or cornered, this snake may strike in self defense; however, no snake will deliberately attack a human. If you encounter an eastern milksnake, observe it from a distance and allow it to go on its way. All snakes will retreat from humans if given a chance.

Milk Snake Size

To discourage snakes from entering buildings, make sure all cracks in the foundation are sealed. Basement windows should be closed tight or covered with screens. If you wish to discourage snakes from your yard, remove the places where they can hide. Keep grass cut short, remove brush and rock piles, and keep shrubs trimmed up off the ground. These methods will discourage snake prey species from the yard as well.

Milk Snake Vs Copperhead

MilkSnake

If a milksnake is found in the home and positively identified as a milksnake, it can be easily and safely removed. A pair of garden gloves is sufficient protection from a milksnake bite. A snake should be picked up carefully to avoid excessive squeezing because snakes have delicate bodies and are easily injured. Place the snake in a cloth bag and release it in an area not far from the point of capture.
The killing of snakes is strongly discouraged. Additionally, wild snakes should NEVER be collected as pets. If you encounter a snake problem, assistance and more information about snakes can be found by visiting the Snakes in Connecticut webpage or calling the DEEP Wildlife Division at 860-424-3011.

Milk Snakes For Sale

Amphibians and Reptiles of Connecticut and Adjacent Regions, by Michael W. Klemens (1993), was used as reference for this fact sheet.

Baby Milk Snake

Milk

Milk Snake Images


Content last updated on March 8, 2018.

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