Milk snakes have striking colors, bright, and patterned. We will see about milk snake facts here. Many people are afraid of milk snakes, even though these snakes are not venomous and very easy to breed in captivity. But most people find it difficult to distinguish it from the copper head snake or coral snake which is venomous and dangerous to humans. Milk snakes are found in America, either in the north or in the south.
Facts About Milk Snakes
The milk snake (Lampropeltis triangulum) belongs to the species of kingsnakes, the milk snake and the king snake are both included in the genus Lampropeltis. In Greek, this means “shiny shield”, so it fits a genus of snakes known for their shiny, clear scales.
Milk snakes have quite a lot of subspecies. According to Bill Heyborne, a herpetologist and professor of biology at Southern Utah University, there are 24 known subspecies of milk snakes. According to him, this large number must be broken down into several species.
Until 2006, the Scarlet Kingsnake was known to be in the milk snake subspecies. This is because scientists say that it is a distinct and separate species. According to the “Virginia Herpetological Society.”
Origin of the name Milk Snake
Milk snake is the name of this snake that has a striking and bright color. There is no reason, this name was originally taken from folklore which says that it entered the people’s warehouse and drank milk from lactating cows. But based on information from the University of Michigan’s Animal Diversity Web (ADW). This is not something that makes sense, it is impossible for a snake to drink cow’s milk, besides it does not have lips like a calf, a snake also cannot hold a lot of the milk it drinks.
Milk Snake Appearance
The color of the milk snake varies among the many subspecies, but all have the color of a circular band. That’s what Heyborne said. The color of the ribbon can vary from white, red and even black. The brightest areas (which separate the colors) are milky white or yellow or even orange. Many milk snakes have a light colored neck with a “y” or “V” shape.
Milk snakes are not large snakes like cobras or anacondas. It measures just 14 to 69 inches (35.5 to 175 centimeters) long, according to information from ADW. The milk snake with the longest size is found in Central America and South America. While those living in Canada and the United States do not grow more than 51 inches. Sexually, male and female milk snakes grow the same with the same body size and the same color. The pupils of the milk snake are round, this is exactly the same as most other non-venomous snakes.
Confusion with venomous snakes
Even though the milk snake is not free, it has its own way of defending itself. This type of snake defends itself by mimicry, as Heyborne said. Most people cannot distinguish or confuse the milk snake with the copper head snake and the rock snake. This is because all of them have bright and striking colors and are almost the same. The milk snake is not venomous, it changes itself to look like a venomous snake, this is done to scare off predators.
This type of mimicry is known as batesian mimicry, meaning the milk snake transforms itself into a harmless one to resemble a dangerous or venomous snake. This is an effective strategy for the snake to protect itself. Well, this milk snake’s ability to change itself like a venomous snake’s appearance has given another problem. Humans cannot distinguish it from a real venomous snake. As a result, humans often kill non-venomous milk snakes because they are considered venomous snakes like copper-headed snakes.
How to tell the difference between a milk snake, a copperhead snake and a coral snake
But according to “the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory”, there are other ways to distinguish milk snakes from copper-headed snakes. This is by paying attention to the shape of the spots. If a milk snake, the ribbon is round and thick. While the poisonous copper head snake has a distinctive hourglass shape.
Also, some milk snakes have the same coloration as coral snakes. So, there are many subspecies of milk snakes that cannot be distinguished from coral snakes. Coral snakes also have ribbons with alternating colors. But you should note that the pattern is different between the two. The bands on coral snakes are red and yellow with each other. While non-venomous milk snakes have red and black stripes between each other.
In a country that is a habitat for this snake, there is a poem known to the public that mentions how to distinguish a milk snake from other snakes. An example is this word “Red on yellow kills a fellow. Red on black, friend of Jack.”
Milk snake and Rattlesnake
When a milk snake is faced by a predator, it sometimes also wiggles its tail, this is to make the predator think that this is a venomous rattlesnake. This is the milk snake’s way of tricking its prey. So don’t mistake it for a rattlesnake. But the two are different and easy to distinguish. Rattlesnakes are duller and thicker in color than milk snakes.
Milk snake is not only one species, but consists of several subspecies. Here we will look at some of the subspecies of the milk snake based on information from livescience.com
1. Eastern milk snake
The eastern milk snake is the most popular subspecies of milk snake. The eastern milk snake or Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum is a common snake found in northeastern America. Its location ranges from Maine to Minnesota and Iowa, and as far south as northern Georgia, according to information from the Ohio Public Library Information Network.
The way to mark the eastern milk snake is by its slender, reddish-brown blotches, with a black frame on a gray background. On the belly there is a black and white checkered pattern. That’s what the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory says. The eastern milk snake grows to about 4 feet (1.2 meters) long. This snake is often confused with the copper head snake. But if you look closely, it has very different spots from the milk snake.
2. Honduran milk snake
The Honduran milk snake has reddish-orange, with black stripes. Between the black stripes on the Honduran milk snake (Lampropeltis triangulum hondurensis) there is a small white band called the tri-color morph or the tangerine morph.
The Honduran milk snake is a subspecies of milk snake that is often kept as a pet. This snake is also widely bred in captivity.
The Honduran milk snake is commonly found in areas of Honduras, the southwestern United States such as Costa Rica, and Nicaragua. This snake also has a growth of up to 4 feet.
3. Puebla milk snake
The Pueblan milk snake or Lampropeltis triangulum campbelli, according to the American Museum of Natural History, is generally considered the same as the coral snake. The band pattern on his skin is red, black, white, black, red. Next to the red color, the coral snake has a yellow band.
The red band on Lampropeltis triangulum campbelli or Pueblan milk snake is estimated to have a large size even two larger than the size of the black and white. Puebla milk snakes also include snakes that are generally bred in captivity. That’s what the American wild life says. The population of the Pueblan milk snake is relatively between 2.5 feet or about 76 cm. That’s what the University of Pittsburgh says.
Pueblan milk snakes are also sometimes referred to by another name, namely Campbell’s milk snakes. Why is it called “Pueblan”? It’s from the Puebla, Morelos and Oaxaca, Mexico area, according to the American Museum of Natural History. As said livescience.com
4. Red milk snakes
The red milk snake is very unique and is often confused with the coral snake. This snake has a white, yellow and brown body, and reddish patches with black rims.
Red milk snakes generally have a small size or average of 21 and 28 inches (53 to 71 cm). If threatened, red milk snakes can be aggressive, as Wildlife North America says. Even so, red milk snakes are sometimes also very liked and made as pets. The red milk snake, also known as Lampropeltis triangulum syspila, is found in several South American states, such as Kansas, Missouri, southwest Indiana, Kentucky, southern Illinois, Iowa, west Tennessee and north Arkansas.