Lee Richardson Zoo

Central Plains Milk Snake

Order: Squamata - lizards and snakes
Family: Colubridae - harmless, egg-laying snakes

Scientific Name:  Lampropeltis triangulum


DescriptionMilk snakes are characterized by smooth scales, a bold black and white pattern on the belly and brilliantly contrasting patterns on the head, body, and tail.  The pattern is usually black-bordered bright red or orange bands separated by narrower yellow, white or cream bands.  The top of the head is usually red in Eastern Kansas and black or orange in the western part of the state.  While length normally ranges from 16-28 inches, the longest milk snake on record is 52 inches.  Adult males grow larger than females.


Home Range:  Most of Kansas, Oklahoma, and extreme northern Texas and central Colorado.


Habitat Type:  Rocky ledges and hillsides along streams and woodland edges.

Reproductive Habits:  Little is known about courtship rituals of the milk snake.  During breeding season however, the male will bite the female a few inches behind her head to hold her during copulation.  These snakes tend to mate in the spring. The female lays eggs in June or July.  This species is oviparous (lays eggs externally).  Incubation time of eggs is 40-50 days.


Diet in Wild:  Primarily small lizards and snakes, but will also eat small mice.  Milk snakes kill by constriction.


Diet in Zoo:  2-3 pinky (baby) mice every Sunday.


General Info:  There is a high demand for these snakes in the commercial pet trade which has led to a decrease in their numbers in the wild.

Milk snakes prefer to stay hidden under sun-warmed rocks rather than bask in the open.  Although this species tends to hunt actively for food during the day, they can switch to nocturnal activity during the hottest part of the summer.  They spend their winters either in rocky dens or small mammal burrows.


Predators:  birds, mammals, and larger snakes.



Amphibians and Reptiles in Kansas. Third Edition. Joseph T. Collins. University of Kansas Press, Lawrence, KS. 1993. pp. 253-255.


Peterson Field Guides:  Reptiles and Amphibians.  Roger Conant et al.  Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. 1991. pp. 133, 167.