Eastern Milk Snake
Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum
Milk Snakes are light brown or gray in color with reddish blotches on their bodies. The blotches are larger on the snakes’ backs and smaller on their sides. Their undersides are white with black patterns.
Milk Snakes measure 24-52 inches in length.
- The Milk Snake is non-venomous and kills its prey by strangulation.
- A snake’s long and slender shape helps it to move through grasses without making very much noise.
- Snakes’ teeth point towards the back of their mouth. This helps them to keep their prey items, which are swallowed whole, moving in the right direction.
- Snakes smell by using their tongues! The forked ends of the tongue fit into two holes in the snake’s mouth that are part of Jacobsen’s organ. This organ transmits information about the smell to the brain.
- The Eastern Milk Snake’s color is similar to that of the venomous Coral Snake. This coloration provides a good defense for the Milk Snake in areas where the two snakes coexist.
Milk Snakes have a varied diet that consists primarily of rodents, but also includes reptiles, amphibians, birds, invertebrates, and eggs. At Cosley Zoo, the Milk Snake eats mice. The snakes at Cosley Zoo are not fed live prey.
Female Milk Snakes lay about 10 eggs at a time in June or July. The eggs have thick, leathery shells and are buried under dirt or in leaf litter. They hatch in August or September. Newly hatched snakes are extremely bright in color and measure 5-10 inches long. The female leaves the nest shortly after laying the eggs and provides no care for the developing eggs or the young snakes.
Shelter and Space Needs
Milk Snakes can be found in a variety of habitats, including hillsides, fields, and wetlands. They are often found under logs, rocks, or stumps. In the winter, snakes travel to dens where they stay with other snakes for the season. During this time, they go through a process similar to hibernation, in which their body temperatures drop and heart rates and breathing slow down.
Importance to Man
Milk Snakes are beneficial to people because they help to control the rodent population.
- The entire body of a snake is covered with scales — even its eyes! Because of this, snakes have no eyelids and cannot blink or close their eyes.
- Although many people think that snakes are slimy, their scales really just feel dry. Snakes have diamond-shaped scales on the top of their body, and long skinny scales called scutes on their undersides.
- If a Milk Snake is alarmed, it will quickly vibrate its tail. If the snake is in dry leaves at the time, this can mimic the sound of a rattlesnake.
- Milk Snakes got their name because people used to believe that these snakes would go into barns and suck the milk from cows. This story is untrue; snakes do not drink milk! This story may have originated because snakes often go into barns to eat rodents.