Other Free Encyclopedias » Animal Life Resource » Dinosaurs, Snakes, and Other Reptiles » Colubrids: Colubridae - Physical Characteristics, Habitat, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Colubrids And People, Conservation Status - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE

Colubrids: Colubridae - Milksnake (lampropeltis Triangulum): Species Account

people dangerous america milksnakes

Physical characteristics: Although all milksnakes have smooth, shiny scales, they can look quite different from one region to the next. Some have large red or brown blotches that are often lined in black on a gray to tan background; others have bands of red, black, and yellow or white. A few are solid black. Adults range from 20 to 60 inches (51 to 152 centimeters) in length.

Although the milksnake is not dangerous, people often kill it because it defends itself by shaking its tail, striking, and biting, the type of behavior that can make people think that it is a dangerous rattlesnake. (Illustration by Barbara Duperron. Reproduced by permission.)

Geographic range: The milksnake lives in North America, Central America, and South America. They make their homes throughout much of the New World, from southeastern Canada through all but the far western United States, into Mexico, Central America, and south to Ecuador and northern Venezuela.


Habitat: Milksnakes are common in forests and fields and sometimes live on rocky hillsides.


Diet: Young snakes seem to prefer eating other snakes, but adults round out their diet with small mammals, lizards, and bird and reptile eggs. A milksnake typically kills mammals and lizards by constriction (kun-STRIK-shun), which means that it coils its body around the prey animal and squeezes it to death.

Behavior and reproduction: The milksnake is a secretive animal during the day and usually stays under the bark of a tree, beneath boards, or in other small hiding places. It becomes active at night, when it feeds. Cold-climate milksnakes hibernate during the winter, often in groups. They mate in the spring. Females lay about ten eggs at a time, and the eggs hatch in one and a half to two months. When they reach three to four years of age, the young snakes are old enough to reproduce, or have their own young.


Milksnakes and people: Although the milksnake is not dangerous, people often kill it because it defends itself by shaking its tail, striking, and biting, the type of behavior that can make people think that it is a dangerous rattlesnake. Because the snake is sometimes found in barns, people at one time had the mistaken idea that it milked cows, and so they named it the milksnake. It is sometimes collected for the pet trade.


Conservation status: The milksnake is not endangered or threatened. ∎

Colubrids: Colubridae - Eastern Hog-nosed Snake (heterodon Platirhinos): Species Accounts [next] [back] Colubrids: Colubridae - Common Garter Snake (thamnophis Sirtalis): Species Accounts

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