Eastern Milksnake

Media
Image of a red milksnake
Scientific Name
Lampropeltis triangulum
Family
Colubridae (nonvenomous snakes) in the order Squamata (lizards and snakes)
Description

This is one of Missouri’s most beautifully colored snakes. The general body color is white, yellow, or light tan, with red or orange blotches bordered with black. The belly is white and strongly checked with black.

Similar species: The red milksnake often is misidentified as a coralsnake, which is not found in Missouri. Coralsnakes have red bands bordered by yellow.

Common Name Synonyms
Red Milksnake
Red Milk Snake
Size

Length: 21 to 28 inches.

Where To Find
Eastern Milksnake dist map

Statewide.

The red milksnake is secretive and seldom seen in the open. It shelters under rocks and logs or in rodent burrows. In hot weather, it moves underground into animal burrows or under large rocks. It is found on rocky, south-facing hillsides, especially on glades. It may also live among rocks and logs along forest edges. In winter, it lives in rodent burrows or in dens on rocky hillsides.

The eastern milksnake, like other kingsnakes, feeds on lizards, small snakes, and small mice, killing its prey by constriction.

Life Cycle

Red milksnakes are normally active April until late October. Courtship and mating occur in the spring. Eggs are laid under larger rocks, in leaf litter, or in a rotten stump. Studies have indicated that clutches in Missouri are produced in June or July, with an average of 5 eggs in a clutch. Eggs hatch from mid-August to early September.The hatchlings have vivid red blotches and average about 8 inches in length.

The milksnakes were so named for the myth that they had the ability to nurse milk from cows. People often have strong emotions about snakes, so there have been many stories and myths associated with them. Many snakes do enter barns — in search of mice — but milk is not a natural food for any reptile.

As predators, red milksnakes control populations of the animals they consume. As with many other predatory species, they can be preyed upon themselves by larger animals, including mammals and predatory birds. The eggs and young are especially vulnerable.

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About Reptiles and Amphibians in Missouri
Missouri’s herptiles comprise 43 amphibians and 75 reptiles. Amphibians, including salamanders, toads, and frogs, are vertebrate animals that spend at least part of their life cycle in water. They usually have moist skin, lack scales or claws, and are ectothermal (cold-blooded), so they do not produce their own body heat the way birds and mammals do. Reptiles, including turtles, lizards, and snakes, are also vertebrates, and most are ectothermal, but unlike amphibians, reptiles have dry skin with scales, the ones with legs have claws, and they do not have to live part of their lives in water.