Milk Snake Facts
Scientific name: Lampropeltis triangulum
Size: 3 – 5ft
Lifespan: 15 – 25 years
Wild Population: 25,000+
Primary Colour: Colour bands (most commonly Red, White & Black)
Habitat: United States
Difficulty of Keeping: Easy
Optimum environment Temperature: 85°F hotspot with ambient temp of 78-80°F
What do they eat? Mice, other snakes, lizards, eggs and other small mammals.
Eggs or Live birth: Egg baring snake.
Venomous: None venomous/ None poisonous
Are they kept in captivity? Milk snakes are widely kept and loved within the reptile keeping community.
Ease of keeping as a pet: among the easiest snake species to keep in captivity.
Cost: Ranges between £50 – £400 dependant on morph (colour)
Whether you are an experience keeper or getting your first pet snake, a milk snake is among the best!
Most accept and tolerant handling well and are a very inquisitive species.
Milk snakes are closely related to the king snake and often it is hard to tell the difference between the two.
A milk snake tends to be slightly more docile than a king, this is just about where the differences end between the two.
Often confused with the coral snake, milks are not a venomous species and kill their prey by biting and constricting.
There are many different sub-species of the milk snake, with 6 types being the most popular, we have listed these below.
Common Milk Snake Species
There a six most commonly kept sub-species of milk snake in captivity, each are near identical skeleton to one another but have different colours, size or behaviours.
- Sinaloan milk snake
- Honduran milk snake
- Nelson ‘s milk snake
- Pueblan milk snake
- Mexican milk snake
- Jalisco milk snake
Are milk snakes venomous
No, this is a question often asked when people have seen a coral snake in a zoo or online and thought it was the same snake.
There is a subtle difference between the milk snake and the coral snake, which has a rhyme which makes identifying which snake it is simple, it goes as follows:
Red & black, Venom lack. Red & Yellow, will kill a fellow.
What to look for when choosing your milk snake
There is various checks and questions you should carry out when purchasing a pet milk snake.
Following these will give you the best chance of having a healthy snake from the offset.
I always start by asking the breeder to see the feeding records of the snake, this is always kept by reputable breeders.
If you are unsure to the legitimacy of the records, ask to come and collect the milk snake on the day of feeding so you can see the snake accepting a meal.
Secondly, a full health check of the snake is important to find any underlying health issues.
This is called a head to tail check and starts before you even pick up the snake.
When their enclosure is opened up, how did the snake react? Snakes are always aware of their surroundings and look alert when something moves or goes near them, more so when they are young.
If the snake just lays still and does not lift their head (more so when going to pick the snake up) this could be a sign of an unhealthy milk snake.
Now, check if there are any visual birth defects of the snake, this is simple and is easy to spot, some issue like a short tail which is fully healed is not an issue.
The skin should be smooth and firm to the touch.
Next, check around the eyes and under the chin of the milk snake for any mites or parasites that may be living on the snake, mites are a real pain to get rid of and if you have touched the snake washed hands and clothes thoroughly.
Check around the mouth, is there any discharge coming out of the mouth?
This may seem like a list of common problems, but finding any of these are not common, this health check is designed just to help avoid getting an unhealthy snake and a large vet bill straight away.
Disclaimer: If you believe an animal is being kept in an unacceptable environment or mistreated, report this to the RSPCA or local animal services.
What you need to keep a pet Milk snake
Choosing the right vivarium for a milk snake is easy and cost effective using our method.
When you first get a baby, milk snake a plastic terrarium is suitable for the first year of their life and is often priced much cheaper than a wooden option.
The heat mat or cable can be taped to the bottom (on the outside) of the enclosure for their heat.
Cleaning is also much easier as it just requires moving the snake out, tip into the bin, clean and put in the fresh bedding.
As your milk snake ages, we recommend going straight to a 3ft vivarium as this will house most adult milk snakes for the rest of their life.
It cuts out having to keep buying lots of different cages which can become very costly.
This is when we recommend getting a wooden enclosure as it is more durable and will last a very long time.
Another tip is quality over price, a high-quality vivarium will last years and year, often not ever needing to be replaced.
Whereas cheap ones get mouldy and start to show signs of wear early on.
With each vivarium, security such as a lock or rubber chock to stop your pet milk snake from escaping.
Believe me this cheap item will save you hours or days trying to find your escape artist of a snake around the house, they are brilliant at hide and seek!
How to heat a milk snakes cage
Heat sources are best using one of the two options, a heat bulb or a heat mat/cable.
For milk snakes, a heat mat is more than adequate for the job and is cheaper on electric bills.
The mat is taped to the bottom of a plastic vivarium and placed on the inside for a wooden option.
Regardless of what heating source you choose for your milk snake, it must be combined with a thermostat.
Thermostats control the temperature inside their enclosure, using the dial to set the optimum temp and place the thermostat probe onto of the bedding above the heat mat.
With the use of a heat mat, a “Mat Stat” works just fine, these are the cheapest to buy only costing £20.00 or $25.00 dependant on where you live.
Dimming thermostats are used for heat bulbs and decent quality ones start around £50 or $60.
Decoration and water
Décor is where you can let the creative juices flow, milk snakes love to climb and investigate new places.
There are some items that are preferred, a hide on each side of the enclosure will allow your snake to thermoregulate themselves while feeling safe in their environment.
Milk snakes are not keen on big open spaces, adding logs, plants and other décor to fill in the gaps will allow them to feel more secure as they navigate around their housing space.
Water dishes are often overlooked, the size of the bowl should allow your milk snake to bathe their body in.
As they come to the shedding process, milk snakes enjoy bathing as it loosens the dead skin.
This does not need to be large enough your snake to swim but just enough to submerge their entire body is preferred.
When & What to feed a milk snake?
Throughout their lifetime milk snakes will thrive on a diet of mice.
Frozen thawed is the best option as mice can be stored for a longer period of time without going bad.
Additional benefits also include not feeding live which causes unnecessary pain for the prey, it is also not uncommon for mice to retaliate and bite the snake which can be fatal.
Deciding on the prey size causes confusion for new snake keepers, use the thickest part of your milk snakes’ body and aim to feed mice the exact same size weekly or every ten days.
Do milk snakes have teeth?
Yes, milk snakes have many reclined needle type teeth.
The reason for being reclined towards the back of the mouth is to stop prey getting away.
A milk snake will bite and sink its teeth and as the prey item pulls away, their teeth sink deeper like a hook.
Whilst in their grasp, they will throw their body around their prey and squeeze with incredible power for their size which causes the animal to suffocate.
This can last for as long as 15 minutes, a milk snake will them consume their food whole.
In most cases swallowing their food headfirst so that the claws do not scrape the snake’s internals as it is digested.
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In conclusion, milk snake is a fantastic choice for any new or experienced snake keeper, and you will not be disappointed with these awesome snakes!