eastern milksnake

(Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum)


This is a moderate-sized, slender snake with a blunt head that is only slightly wider than the neck. It grows to lengths of 24-36 in. (61-90 cm). It has a tan or gray ground color and three to five rows of reddish-brown, black-edged blotches. The center row of blotches is the largest and alternates with smaller lateral blotches. There is a gray or tan Y- or V-shaped mark just behind the head. The belly has a black and white checkerboard pattern. The juvenile is similar to the adult but has much redder blotches. This snake shows a lot of geographic variability in scale pattern, number of blotches, or number of body rings. The females lay 4-12 eggs in rotting wood and beneath rocks and logs, and the eggs hatch 2 to 2 1/2 months later. This is a secretive burrower that spends most of its time underground or beneath rocks, logs, stumps and boards.The maximum known age is 21 years 4 months and 18 days. Humans kill many individuals on the highways, through destruction of habitat, and because of a slight resemblance to the copperhead.


This snake occurs throughout the higher elevations of western Virginia and in scattered locations in the piedmont and coastal plain. In the lower elevations, it inhabits hillsides, wooded areas, open fields, and stream and river floodplains. At higher elevations, this snake is found in deciduous hardwoods, mixed pine-hardwoods, fields, grassy balds, and rock outcrops and ledges. This snake is well-know for turning up around barns and old buildings where mice are plentiful.


The main foods of this species include small snakes, lizards and mice. They will also take earthworms, insects and small frogs.