Adults average 61-90 cm (24-35 inches) in total length, with a record of 132.1 cm (52 inches). Scales and smooth and glossy and the anal plate is not divided. It has 19-23 rows of scales at mid-body. It usually has a Y-shaped marking on top of the head but this can be absent in some specimens or V-shaped. There are a total of 25-54 dorsal (top) blotches with smaller blotches on the sides. The blotches range in color from bright red in young individuals to dark brown,brick red, and sometimes shades of orange. The venter (bottom) is usually checkered with black alternating spots although I have seen a few with no ventral patern whatsoever.
The Eastern Milksnake is often mistaken as a copperhead and thus usually killed. It also looks like young ratsnakes but the body structure is different, milksnakes are circular and ratsnakes are like a loaf of bread in cross section. it can also be misidentified as a rattlesnake because of the habit of shaking the tail.
The Eastern Milksnake is a wide ranging species from Se. Maine, sw. Quebec, se. and sc. Ontario, s. Wisconsin, and c. and se. Minnesota south to ne. Iowa, n. half of Illinois, and most of Iowa; south through Appalachian Mountains to n. Georgia and Alabama and westward to w. Tennessee and Kentucky; south on east coast to n. New Jersey. From s. New Jersey to ne. North Carolina, intergrades with Scarlet Kingsnake. In southern extent of range in mountains, it intergrades with the Scarlet Kingsnake and Red Mike Snake.
The Eastern Milksnake is not a very picky snake as long as prey,shelter and water are present there is a good chance that they are present. most common habitats used are old fields, rocky hillsides, old barns, and borders of forest. although they can be found almost anywhere. they spend most of there time in hiding under rocks, logs, trash, or underground.
Reproduction And Life History
In the majority of it's range the Milk Snake will spend several winter months in a state of hibernation. The further north in the animals range the snake is found the longer the period of hibernation. The Milk Snake will stop feeding several weeks prior to the onset of late fall and will seek shelter in a suitable place such as the rotted stump of a large tree,rock piles and even old buildings. In the extreme southern portions of the Milk Snakes range, the animal will emerge periodically on warm days to enjoy the warmth of the sun and return to it's hibernaculumhttp://www.rfadventures.com/milk_snake.htm)). It reaches sexual maturity at the third or fourth year. Breeds in June. Deposits eggs in mid-June to July in piles of soil, sawdust, or manure, or under other cover, often in a communal nest site. Clutches typically 13 eggs, although size ranges from 6 to 24. Incubation takes 6 to 8 weeks, and eggs hatch in late August to October. The life span of a captive Eastern Milksnake was over 21 years.
Eastern Milksnakes eat a variety of prey items including mice,lizards,snakes. I have heard of them also eating fish,worms, and slamanders in captivity.
The Eastern Milksnake is not under any real threat next to urbanization and destruction of habitat, road mortality plays a role in it as well. It does have legal protection in many states and you should check your local and state laws for further information. In New York I know it is illegal to collect any native reptile or amphibian with out proper permits..
The Eastern Milksnake gets its name in the belief that it goes into barns and drinks the milk from cows udders.
The generic name (Lampropeltis) is derived from the Ancient Greek lamprós (λαμπρος) meaning "bright" and peltas (πελτα) meaning "shield", after the sheen of their scales. Its specific name (triangulum) is Latin for "triangle" and refers to the three colors found on the scales of the species (red, black, and yellow).
The Eastern Milksnake is commonly called a spotted adder in parts of it's range.
- Fidler, Wayne F. personal observation.
- Delaney, John. personal communication