Red Milk Snakes-Behavior, Genetics and Comparisons

Red Milk Snakes-Everything You Need to Know

The red milk snake is commonly found in the Southern Indiana region. These snakes feed essentially on rodents and other smaller animals like birds and reptiles. Indeed, the red milk snake is majorly nocturnal, enjoying its active peak at night and dusk. This is not a very social animal, as it prefers being on its own, rarely venturing out in the day. When it is significantly sunny, they enjoy hiding away under rocks or in their burrows.

The red milk snake has shiny scales that are notably smooth. The red milk snake grows to a length of 24-36 in. They have a beautiful dorsal pattern, adorned with narrow bands made of cream, white, pale gray, or tan, which is bordered by black saddles. Some of these black saddles alternate with red dorsal saddles as well. The red milk snake’s head is most times, a combo of black and red blotches.

The red milk snake is famously adored among snake aficionados and the general community. Of course, this admiration can be traced to the uniqueness and charm of this snake. Such uniqueness extends to its genetics, breeding, and behavior. More interestingly, red milk snakes are commonly mistaken for coral snakes and scarlet kingsnakes. But do you know how to tell a red milk snake from this lot? Let us learn all about this in this guide.

Red Milk Snake Colors

The red milk snake stands out for its dorsal designs, embellished with alternating black and red saddles. These saddles are usually separated by yellowish, cream, white, and gray patches. The red milk snake has a white belly decked with rectangular markings.

These markings are prominent but unordered in their distribution. This is why the belly of this snake most times resembles a checkerboard. The head of the red milk snake is densely populated by red markings bounded by black. It is important to note that the head pattern is disconnected from the first saddle decorating the snake’s body.

The red milk snake is typically medium-size and averages a length of 40 inches. Given the blotchy (which is notably vibrant) coloration of the red milk snake, many people struggle to distinguish it from coral snakes and copperheads.

While red milk snakes are nonvenomous, they have an intriguing defensive tactic of resembling the venomous species like the copperhead to scare away predators. This is known as mimicry.

Red Milk Snake Genetics

The red milk snake is a species of the kingsnake. Just like the kingsnake, the red milk snake originates from the genus Lampropeltis. This is a greek terminology meaning shiny shields. This name is not out of place, considering the patterned and shiny scales of the red milk snake.

There are up to 24 subspecies of the red milk snake, which have been scientifically documented at present. Scientists are considering splitting these subspecies into multiple species.

Until scientists decided to classify the scarlet kingsnake in its unique species in 2006, the scarlet kingsnake used to be a subspecies of the milk snake.

How Much is a Red Milk Snake?

Depending on the breeder, you can see healthy red milk snakes around the region of $55-80.

What Do Baby Red Milk Snakes Look Like?

The red milk snake’s hatchling has a range of 6-7 inches in length. Their colors are even more vibrant than the mature red milk snake. However, as the hatchling grows older and matures, its color pales relatively. Before they graduate into mammals, they would feed on invertebrates.

It would take about 3-4 years for the hatchling to mature into an adult. Overall, the lifespan of the red milk snake has not been scientifically proven. But it appears they could average 22 years if well taken care of in captivity.

Red Milk Snake Facts

This is a timid snake, but it is nonvenomous and extremely unlikely to attack if unprovoked. While they are majorly found in the United States, the origin of these snakes has even been traced to Venezuela.

Opposed to the name, red milk snakes don’t drink milk, they are carnivorous and feed mostly on reptiles. Interestingly, these snakes tend to have a patch shaped in the form of a V or Y on the back of their heads.

Another exciting fact about the red milk snake is that it eats its lookalikes. Therefore, the red milk snake savors a meal of other coral snakes, which are even more dangerous than it. Isn’t this intriguing?

Red Milk Snake Behavior

When feeding, the red milk snake, being a constrictor, would wrap itself very tightly around its prey, strangling the prey, forcing its heart to halt blood circulation. When the prey dies, the red milk snake swallows it wholly.

This snake is solitary, enjoying its own company when it hides away. This snake gets easily stressed if excessively exposed to human company or handling. Unless in captivity, the red milk prefers to fix its stuff at night or dusk when it is more active, being predominantly nocturnal.

In the wild, you are very unlikely to find this snake in the day unless it is coming out to dry when it wet or to cool itself. Otherwise, on hot days, the red milk snake prefers spending its days under logs or rocks.

When winter comes, the red milk snake bromates, hidden away in dens. These dens are well situated in rock crevices or its dug burrows.

This brumation is different from the traditional hibernation as in the former state, the red milk snake wakes intermittently to drink water. When bromating, the typical solitary snake doesn’t mind sharing its den with other rattlesnakes.

How to Breed Red Milk Snakes?

The mating period for the red milk snake typically runs from March to May. These snakes can wake from its winter brumation to mate. This mating could occur in these shared brumation sheds.

When this mating is to occur outside the den, the female milk snake leaves behind a pheromone trail once ovulation sets in. The male red milk snake now follows this trail to her.

Copulation between male and female red milk snake could last for hours. Scientists are hypothesizing that the lengthiness of this sexual exercise could be to deter other males from mating the female during its ovulation.

After mating, the female red milk snake could lay its eggs under big rocks. Alternatively, it could lay its eggs in a rotten stump or a leaf litter.

Red Milk Snake Eggs

The red milk snake is an oviparous animal, laying eggs. The mother red milk snake lays a clutch of about 2-17 eggs. This occurs about 30 days after it copulates with the male.

For the red milk snake to hatch its eggs, it needs a humid place that is reasonably warm. The process of incubation can last between 30-60 days. The mother red milk snake doesn’t spend long, nurturing its hatchlings after incubation.

Typically, these snakes hatch their eggs around August-September. These hatchlings take on the signature red blotches of its parent, only that its blotches are brighter than that of the matured red snake milk.

Red Milk Snake vs Coral Snake

The red milk shares a striking resemblance with the coral snake that it gets difficult telling them apart. How do you differentiate the coral snake from the red milk snake?

The First Step is Inspecting the Colors

To distinguish between a red milk snake and its coral counterpart, you need to watch out for blotches and stripes. The red milk snake and the coral don’t share patterns.

In some cases, you don’t even see stripes in red milk snakes. Therefore, if you see a seeming coral snake having blotches (in the place of stripes), the chances are high that it is a milk snake.

While inspecting these snakes for their colors and patterns, avoid the temptation to touch them. Not all snakes with blotches are nonvenomous like the red milk snake. This is in the case where they bite.

To better distinguish between the red milk and coral snake, you should look at the distribution of their red and yellow rings. Normally, you will find red, yellow, and black splotches in both the milk and coral snakes. However, in the specific case of the milk snake, the red and yellow rings are interspersed with black rings. This means that the yellow and red rings don’t touch or directly border each other.

However, if you notice that the red and yellow bands are directly bordering (or touching) each other, the chances are high that you have a coral snake. If this is the case, quickly create a distance between you and that type of snake as it is venomous.

Examining Their Face

Coral Snake
Coral Snake Source: Facebook

You can tell a red milk snake from a coral snake if you diligently investigate the face. Examining the face of the coral snake, it is distinctively solid black. On the face of the coral snake, you will commonly find a yellow band directly underneath the solid black markings. Consequently, the coloring of the coral snake’s face makes it quite challenging to see their eyes.

Look at the Size

The size can also help you differentiate the red milk snake from the coral snake. On closer inspection, you would notice that the coral snake is bigger than the milk snake in most cases.

Depending on your region, you would see that most red milk snakes don’t grow more than 3 feet. However, red milk snakes in Honduras are an intriguing exception, as they can get as long as 5 feet.

Look at the Location 

Another way – although it is less assured compared to the other differentiating factors we previously mentioned – is the location you see the snake. There is a concentrated population of coral snakes in 3 regions in the U.S.

You would find coral snakes more around Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Missouri, Georgia, Alabama, and parts of Texas. If you are outside these areas, chances are low you would run into a coral snake.

Red Milk Snake vs Scarlet Kingsnake

Scarlet Kingsnake
Scarlet Kingsnake

The scarlet kingsnake is smaller than the red milk snake. While the red milk snake is somewhere around 24 – 35 in, the scarlet kingsnake is around 14 – 20 in.

You Might Also Like:

About The Author

Scroll to Top