Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum
The eastern milksnake (Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum) is a subspecies of milk snake (Lampropeltis triangulum), these nonvenomous, colubrid snakes are indigenous to eastern and central North America.
Their range in the USA extends in the north from Maine to Ontario and in the south from North Carolina to Alabama. The eastern milksnake is the northernmost milk snake subspecies and the only one that occurs in Canada.
They are able to live in a wide variety of both natural or human-modified habitats, like prairies, pastures, meadows, hayfields, forests, rocky outcrops or rocky hillsides. They need to find suitable locations with proper cover for egg-laying, thermoregulation and hibernation.
They hibernate in the winter season and will emerge in April or May to mate. These are very secretive snakes and are often found beneath rocks, stones, logs or stumps, they are also burrowers and spend much of their life underground.
Over a gray or tan ground color they have large red to reddish-brown oval blotches outlined in black along the back, and one or two rows of smaller blotches along the sides of the body. The belly has a pattern of black and white checks. Their skin is smooth with shiny scales.
The eastern milksnake generally grows to a length of 24 to 36 inches (60 to 91 cm), but extremely large specimens can grow to 52 inches (132 cm). Females tend to be shorter than male snakes.
The species potential predators include opossums,raccoons, skunks, bullfrogs (Rana Catesbeiana) and mad brown thrashers (Toxostoma rufum).
Diet / Feeding
The eastern milksnake eats mostly small mammals like mice, small birds and smaller snakes even venomous ones. Younger snakes will also eat insects, earthworms and small frogs.
They kill their prey by constriction by wrapping it in their coils and squeezing until the animal suffocates and dies.
The eastern milksnake reaches sexual maturity at approximately 3 or 4 years of age. These snakes are oviparous and the species mating season occurs in spring, around late April to May.
The female lays between 4 to 18 eggs in June or July in a sheltered location like rotting or decaying vegetation and wood, and may even be buried several inches deep in the soil. The clutch size, the number and size of eggs is dependent of the female's size.
Sometimes several females may lay their eggs in the same location, they don't take care of their eggs, leaving them to hatch on their own. In August or September the 4 to 8 inches long, colorful hatchlings use a special "egg tooth" to hatch out of the eggs. The juvenile snakes are similar to adults but their blotches are much redder.
Conservation / Threats
Habitat loss or degradation is the major threat to the eastern milksnake, but they are also affected by road mortality and persecution by humans because they are mistaken for other venomous snakes like the Massasauga or copperhead.
The snake fungal disease, is known to affect the species and exotic pet trade is also responsible for the decline in the eastern milksnake population.
Did You Know?
Australia's inland taipan bite contains venom enough to kill up to 100 full grown men.