Eastern Milksnake

Lampropeltis triangulum

red_milk_snake.jpg

Image of a red milksnake
The red milksnake is secretive and seldom seen in the open. It is found on rocky, south-facing hillsides, especially on glades.
MDC Staff
Other Common Name
Red Milksnake; Red Milk Snake
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.

Size

Length: 21 to 28 inches.

FG-0149-Red-milk-snake

Video of a red milksnake in the wild.

Red milk snake eating a skink

Red milk snake wrapped around a skink. It is beginning to swallow the head of the lizard.
Red milk snake eating a skink
Independence, MO

Red milk snake eating a skink

The snake has uncoiled and has swallowed the head of the skink.
Red milk snake eating a skink
Independence, MO

Red milk snake eating a skink

Red milk snake wrapped around a skink. It is beginning to swallow the head of the lizard.
Red milk snake eating a skink
Independence, MO

Eastern Milksnake in Point Pleasant

a red snake with black and yellow bands glides through a patch of clover in a brown lawn.
Eastern Milksnake in Point Pleasant

Red Milksnake

snake with red spots rears up as if to strike at the camera.
Red milksnake in House Springs, MO
Habitat and conservation

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.

Foods

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

Eastern Milksnake dist map
Distribution in Missouri

Statewide.

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.

Human connections

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.

Ecosystem connections

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.